Alrighty, I’d like to welcome everyone to The App Shack’s first ever Review Rewind, a new section of TAS that will spotlight reviews that were posted exactly one year ago, but only for games that are still on our devices today. Our very first Review Rewind is Newtype K.K.’s fantastic Aerial Combat title, Fractal Combat. One year ago today, I was first exposed to this amazing game. Since then, it’s gone through 6 updates, and quite a few changes and tweaks, making the game better each time. It’s made its way onto our Writer’s Favorites list as my very own #10 favorite iOS game ever, and we also gave out 5 promo codes for it over the last week during our Big Ass Promo Code Giveaway, but if you don’t have it yet, it’s definitely one iOS title you need to own. Here it is; Fractal Combat.
**Note: This review was written after playing Version 1.0.
Fractal Combat is a new aerial combat game from NewType K.K. It’s also their first offering to the AppStore, but it sure doesn’t show in their presentation. Fractal Combat is a very polished, top notch aerial combat game. The fractal graphics are wonderful, the music is great, and the controls are user interface are phenomenal. I really was not expecting what I got out of this game. The animations of the exploding enemies, along with the flaming bits of wreckage you see after the explosion is great. You rarely find this much attention to detail within games like this on the iOS, and seeing that it can be done, and done very well, might make you start to think less of all the other aerial combat games in the AppStore.
You’re given 10 missions throughout each of the 7 different landscapes, that‘s a whopping 70 missions. Each of the missions it’s your job to take out the targets, highlighted in red on the map. While you’re going after the targets, you’ll be bombarded by enemies that show up on the radar as yellow triangles. Each time you blow an enemy up, they leave behind some energy which if collected, gives you some shield. If you have no shield power, your armor, which is pretty much health, gets knocked down with each hit. Once you have no armor, you’re dead, and need to start at the beginning of the mission. If you happen to succeed in the mission, you’re awarded with a rating of 1 to 3 stars, along with credits which you can use to buy better weapons, generators, radars and even new ships in the garage. There’s 5 ships total that you can unlock by progressing through the game, and then buy. Each has stronger armor, more shield capacity, and a different flight mode, or way of flying. For instance, you start off with a ship that has thrusters for flight, and the next ship up that you can buy uses magnetic rotors. There’s 7 different weapons, each with different speed, range, damage, and other attributes. 3 different radars, and 5 different generators. There’s slots in the game to have 6 profiles, so you can play the game on a device that’s shared between friends or family, and not end up playing each others games, or you can just start from scratch, and re-organize how you set up your weapons and which ships you buy.
You are given two choices of control options, a joystick which you can have on the left or right hand side of the screen, or you can use your devices accelerometer, and tilt while you play. You can also set the sensitivity, angle of accelerometer, and put the throttle on the left or right side of the screen. Fire buttons are on both the left and right hand sides of the bottom of the screen if you decide to use tilt controls, and on the opposite side of the screen of the joystick, if you decide to use that control method. However, you are not able to change the Y direction, so pressing up on the control pad makes you go down, and pressing down makes you go up. Which is not the case for tilt controls, tilting the top of your iPod towards you makes the ship go up, and away from you to go down. This set up is a tad weird, but manageable if you’re use to default settings in most aerial combat games. You can also change the music and fx volume, which is always a nice option, and there is, of course, a reset to default option, just in case you end up screwing everything up and want to start from scratch. All-n-all, there’s quite a bit of customization going on in the options menu. But I think an option to turn the HUD display on or off would have been a good idea too, as it can seem kind of crowded on the screen, but not in a way that distracts from the gameplay.
The only real thing I think this game is missing is another mode, or a story. I know it’s not easy to create a story for a game, and it’s pretty much pointless to just cram a story into a game just for the hell of it, but if Fractal Combat had a story to go along with the missions, like why you’re fighting these ships, why they’re you’re enemies, something so that you know WHY, it would make this game a lot better. That, along with a survival mode, where you could take your fully equipped ship into a battle that only ended when you got shot down, would make this an even more amazing game. But with what it has now, Fractal Combat is still worthy of 4.5 out of 5 stars, and comes along with a strong recommendation from me. Anyone who’s into aerial combat, flight sims, or just action and arcade games in general should check this out one, it’s a game that you will never regret buying. It’s universal, and only $1.99.
It’s always great seeing something new and unique hit the AppStore. With so many new developers that have hit the AppStore over the last 4 or so years, it’s incredible that there are developers out there that have ideas that haven’t been done or taken advantage of yet. That’s the case with Jorge Hernandez’s Astronaut Spacewalk, an astronaut simulation title that has you move and control an astronaut around a spaceship right above the earth’s atmosphere.
The first thing you might notice when starting up the game is the detailed controls. Going through the operation manual is something you really should do before you start playing. The controls are unlike anything I’ve experienced on the iOS as of yet. You’re given buttons which will move you up, down, forward, back, left, right, rotate you right, left, strife right, left, rotate you forward and back, and controls that will move the camera around you, however, they aren’t your typical virtual controls. On the left side of the screen, you’re given your basic movement buttons, and on the right you have your rotating, and the center of the screen controls your camera. It does take a little fidgeting around before you get comfortable with them, but once you do, the controls are perfect for the game.
Starting off, you’ll need to guide the astronaut to various spots around the shuttle. You have a certain amount of boosters, and re-aligning energy, as well as a set amount of oxygen. If you can’t make it to all of the checkpoints around the ship with the given amount of energy and oxygen, you’ll need to start from scratch. There are also set boundaries around the shuttle, and if you leave them, you’ll need to restart as well, so no making your way from the shuttle to the moon, or re-entering the atmosphere in your suit. There are some glitches that occur if you manage to collide with the ship, and keep going forward, you can wind up getting stuck inside of the ship, unable to make your way out, but this really only happens if you’re trying to make it happen.
After the first mission, you’ll be faced with objectives that generally have you moving from one area to another, and staying there while something is fixed, attached, or checked out. You will need to align the astronaut in the correct positioning in order for this to happen, which can get quite challenging. Even further on, you’ll be making your way to satellites, space stations, and more.
The graphics are definitely a highlight within the game, with the Earth, Shuttle, Astronaut, and space debris very detailed. Combined with the controls, physics, inertia, and basic gameplay, Astronaut Spacewalk becomes a very immersive experience. Something that also helps is the music and effects, as well as the constant background NASA chatter. Astronaut Spacewalk is really less of a game, and more of a challenging experience. Each of the 20 Missions provides unique tasks which you must complete before you run out of air and power.
Having a launching price of $3.99, it’s a fantastic simulation title to pick up if you’re interested in something new and unique, and are up for a challenge. I can’t really see the gameplay appealing to a wide audience, but hopefully it does. With more and more people becoming interested in space and NASA, now seems like a perfect time for a game like this to hit the AppStore, but with so many casual gamers, it’ll be a hard sell. Being made only for the iPhone is another thing that will most likely keep people from purchasing it, but if you’re willing to play in 2X mode, with a little bit of pixilation, or just have an iPod/iPhone, it’s definitely a game you should check out. I can’t wait to see what Mr. Hernandez has in store for future games on the platform. Here’s hoping this is only the beginning.
It’s not too often you see a completely unique and original Strategy title, even on a platform that’s full of hundreds of incredibly talented developing teams. It’s even more rare for a Strategy title to end up taking the #1 spot on the iTunes Paid Game’s list away from Angry Birds. Plague Inc., developed by Ndemic Creations is just that. Plague Inc. has you evolving and spreading a disease, while trying to infect and kill everyone in the world before a cure can be found. Sound evil? It is. But it’s also one of the most interesting and addictive strategy games I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing.
When you start your first game, you’ll only be able to start with a Bacteria and will be able to choose between Casual (no one washes their hands, research doctors don‘t work and sick people are given hugs), Normal (67% of people wash their hands, doctors work 3 days a week and sick people are ignored), and Brutal (compulsive hand washing, doctors never go home and sick people are locked in prisons) Difficulties. Once you complete a Bacteria game on Normal or Brutal difficulty, you’ll be able to unlock the Virus. Completing a Virus game on Normal or Brutal unlocks Fungus, then Parasite, Prion, Nono-Virus and then Bio-Weapon. Once you complete all disease types on Brutal Difficulty, you’ll be able to unlock special cheats, with no cure being able to be found, humans never taking action against you, and the unlimited DNA cheat, which lets you evolve your plague like you were God.
Once you start your game, you’re able to choose which country you want to infect first. Once your plague starts spreading, you start earning DNA points. These are used to evolve your plague by choosing from literally hundreds of different attributes, all split up into 3 different types of evolutions; Transmission, which lets you decide what animals can be infected, and how your plague can travel, Symptoms, which lets you choose what symptoms occur, and how bad these symptoms can get, and Abilities, which give your plague the strength to survive in different climates, and how resistant it is to cure research.
As the game progresses, little bubbles will pop up across the world, letting you infect more countries, gain more DNA points, and disrupt scientists research.
You’re also able to check out the world news, which lets you know what’s going on in the world you’re trying to infect. You’ll be alerted when and where Olympics, as well as other National events are going to start, when certain countries are noticing infection, when they close down airports and seaports, block boarders, notice infection, start researching a cure, as well as some very sobering events, like when bodies are piling up so bad that they’re being buried in massive holes, when the dead are being burned, and more. There are also graphs which let you know which countries are and are not infected, how the cure is coming along, and how your infected to dead ratio is coming along. The background music adds to this very serious sort of feeling you’ll get while playing. And it will hit you, eventually. When starting a game, you might be rooting for complete world destruction, but once you read about the events and see the death toll hit the billions, watch your plague spread, see where the evolutions branch out to, and hear when governments fall, as well as the creepy ‘ring around the posies’ chant in the background, it all starts to get pretty intense.
With Plague Inc. being made Universal with their first Update, as well as being priced at $0.99, it’s one game that strategy fans should not miss. Considering it’s hit #1 on the paid app charts, and judging from the iTunes ratings, as well as explosion of posts throughout iOS forums, it’s pretty clear that casual gamers are jumping in, and are becoming obsessed with the game as well. Considering it’s 2012, and the popularity of movies like 28 Days Later, Contagion, Quarantine, and a whole catalogue of virus related films, it’s not surprising that Plague Inc. has climbed up the leader boards so quickly. But it is pretty surprising seeing a strategy/simulation game hit the #1 spot. It’s definitely a game every iDevice user should check out, and is one game that I will be recommending to everyone I know.
Sci-Fi Sim Adventure. The genre’s completely new to me, but I don’t think I could have picked a better game to introduce me to the genre than DigitalFrog’s Space Frontier. Starting off, it has a great interactive tutorial that’s very easy to understand and shows you exactly what you need to know in order to make it through the game. During the tutorial, you’ll notice how much work has obviously gone into creating a great looking universe to play in, with loads of details, great object and item designs, and a fantastic atmosphere.
So, the whole object of the game is to build houses and make money, out in space. There will be some competition, especially from a character named Felipe, and his android, Doomsday, both with egos larger than the solar system you’ll be competing in. There are a bunch of little things you’ll need to keep your eyes on while you’re in the process of trying to build and make money. The sector that you’re building on will have a safety meter, which slowly decreases as you progress through each level, you’ll need to spend money to constantly keep this meter as high as you can so that your sector is not hit my an asteroid, which could destroy or damage buildings. Also, building your different types of houses requires you to spend minerals, which you will need to buy to replenish, as well as requires you to have enough robots to build them. This means that if you have 4 robots, you can only build a couple houses at a time, sometimes only one building at a time, depending on how many robots it takes to build that specific object.
After you build a house, it will start to earn you income. The total income you have is shown in your ‘income bar’ which is constantly being filled up. Once it becomes full, the income in the bar is transferred over to your bank, and once it’s there, you can spend it, buying more minerals, increasing your sector’s safety, buying more robots, or even buying the A.I.’s buildings. Each building can be upgraded, which will increase it’s amount of income, but can only be leveled up 3 times. It is worth leveling up all of your buildings, as it can more than double it’s original income amount. You’re also able to terraform your houses, giving the sector more O2, and increasing your income slightly as well.
Now, I know this technical stuff sounds kind of boring, but if you’re into simulation games, I think you know where all of this is going. There are 40 missions, or stages, that you’ll need to complete in order to beat Felipe. Each mission gives you certain tasks which you must complete in a given amount of time. You aren’t necessarily required to beat this time, but Felipe’s time is marked on the timer, and if you want to beat him, you will need to beat his mission times. As you progress though the game, you will unlock more and more buildings which will help you gather income, raise money, and fund the sectors. You are able to build, buy, sell, and destruct buildings, each of which has different attributes, different amounts of income, and effects your sector differently. Each time you start a mission, you are given a certain amount of cash in the bank, a certain amount of robots, and a certain amount of minerals, once the minerals and original bank money is depleted, you will be required to refill these on your own.
It might take multiple tries to beat each of Felipe’s times, but once you get the hang of everything, and multitasking, constantly keeping your eyes on the sectors safety, income, bank, minerals, and task progression. One thing I would absolutely love to see added in the future would be GameCenter. DigitalFrog has provided an in-game leaderboard that connects to their servers, which does help with the cheaters on GameCenter, but it takes away from competing against your GameCenter friends. Thankfully, there are in-game achievements. 54 to be exact. Some gamers love it when developers have their own leaderboards and achievement systems. I happen to be someone who happens to like when developers do this, but do understand why people want GameCenter integration. Still, it’s hard to say that no GameCenter is an issue when the developers do such a great job with their own in-game leaderboard and achievements like DigitalFrog has done here. You are awarded scores based on how quickly you complete the missions, and you can replay each mission, so making your way up the leader board, as well as competing against Felipe’s times does add quite a bit of replay value to the game. There’s also a Casual Mode that’s unlocked once you complete all of the regular campaign missions. For my first Sci-fi Simulation Adventure game, you can color me extremely impressed, and be sure that I’ll be searching the AppStore (and Steam) for more games in this genre. $3.99 is really a great price for the amount and quality of the content provided here with Space Frontier, and better yet, it‘s Universal! If you’re a fan of the genre, it’s one title you definitely need to check out, and if you’ve never heard of the genre, Space Frontier is probably one of the best, if not the best, game that you could first get, as you’ll end up being hooked from the moment you complete the tutorial levels.