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Neoteria – 1.99 (OrangePixel)

OrangePixel has proven, with their mobile game releases, that they are kings of the retro gaming world. Their lineup of Meganoid, Stardash, INC, Super Drill Panic and more now have another title that’ll eat up gamers lives; Neoteria, an arcade inspired retro shoot-em-up with the difficulty level fans of OrangePixel have come to love and respect. And really, OrangePixel development merged with shmup gameplay… a pretty hardcore fan of both couldn’t ask for more.
Gameplay: 4/5
In the game, you’ll start off with only Easy Mode selectable. As you progress through the first world, you’ll unlock Normal Mode, and once you complete the first world on Normal, you unlock Hard Mode, which, if you’re familiar with OrangePixel’s games, is basically where the hardcore gamers will spend most of their time. You’re given little snippets of the story as you make your way from world to world. The outer mining settlement is under alien attack, and it’s up to you to stop them.
There are checkpoints throughout each world, set up kind of like levels. Each has 3 stars which you can earn by playing on all 3 difficulties. The first star is for beating the level on Easy, second star for Normal, and third for Hard. There are different paths which you can play through on your way through each world, with each path leading to the same end boss. You are able to go back and replay previously beaten stages if you’d like to power-up your weapon, which you do by collecting the blue crystals that enemies leave behind, or if you’d like to try and travel through all the paths in each world.
Graphics: 4/5
As with other OrangePixel games, Neoteria is done in a retro style that looks fantastic. However, there is one little drawback. On the iPad, the graphics have a little blur behind them whenever objects are moving. This includes the backgrounds, environments, player ship, enemies, and projectiles. It’s not too much of an issue, because most of the time, you’ll be focusing on the crazy amount of enemies coming at you, and trying to survive, but it is there. I’m not sure if it’s there on the iPod, because of the smaller screen, but if it is, it’s not noticeable.
Controls: 4/5
The controls for Neoteria aren’t really what you would expect from a shooter like this, and it’s where the arcade inspiration really becomes apparent. On the left side of the screen, you’re given two buttons for movement of your ship up and down, and on the right side, there’s a fire button, but you can tap anywhere on the right side of the screen to fire. There is no auto-fire, so you’ll constantly be tapping on the right side of the screen to shoot. Here’s where those quick tapping abilities all you old-school gamers should still have come in handy.
In the Controls Menu, you’re able to move the buttons around as you see fit, which definitely comes in handy if you’re playing on an iPad. However, the touch detection area is pretty small, and does not go outside of the buttons at all. This can result in your ship not going up or down because your thumb is the slightest little bit off. This is understandable, since you are able to move the buttons around, and could potentially have the up button pretty much touching the down button, and you wouldn’t want the detection area to overlap. Being able to make the buttons bigger would be a nice way of fixing this, especially since they go invisible after a short time, and obscuring the gameplay area wouldn’t really be an issue with it.
To top it off, it’s also iCade and Joypad supported!
Content + Replayability : 4/5
Neoteria does not really have a whole lot of content, especially when compared to the insane amount of levels in OrangePixel‘s other titles. 3 worlds, each with 8 pretty short levels in them. I’m hoping that like their other games, Neoteria will get some nice content updates in the future. But like other shmups, the value is really in the replay value, not necessarily in the content, and Neoteria has it in spades. Yes, there are only 24 short levels in the game, but you’ll be able to play through them with each of the 3 characters, and finding out how to make it into the hidden paths could take a while.
There’s also the scoring system. At the end of each level, your score is based on the percentage of the level’s enemies that you wiped out, your shot accuracy, and the score you built up while playing through the level. This does add an extra level of replay value, as the first couple times you play through the game, you’ll probably be pounding away on the fire button, and then start trying to increase your score by getting higher accuracy percentages.
Neoteria is also supported by OpenFeint and GameCenter, with 12 achievements, and 3 leaderboards, one for each character (difficulty). So if you’re a high-score chaser, battling for a higher position on the leaderboards is sure to keep you busy for some time. Getting all of the achievements should also take a while, as a lot of them are for finding the secret paths, and 100% completing each difficulty.
Overall: 4/5
Granted, Neoteria isn’t OrangePixel’s best release to date, but I’m ecstatic that one of my favorite development teams released a shmup, one of my favorite type of games (yeah, I’m a platformer/shmup/strategy fanatic). The developers have said that they’re working on another control scheme, as a few players aren’t really comfortable with the current set-up, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it got a few content updates as well. OrangePixel’s other titles have also been known to get very fleshed out/extremely polished based on player feedback, so the distortion with the graphics, touchy controls, and any other issues that there might be, have a very good chance of being dealt with.
At $1.99, being Universal, having iCade and Joypad compatibility, as well as the crazy high replay value that comes along with shmups and games having GameCenter and OpenFeint support, not to mention, it’s ORANGEPIXEL, it’s a great buy.

Terra Noctis – 2.99 (Bulkypix + FireFruitForge)

If you’re a regular reader of TheAppShack, you probably know by now that my favorite genre of video games is platformers. Especially exploratory platformers. As I’ve said a few times, Metroid II – Return of Samus is my favorite video game of ALL TIME. These days, my iPod is my main gaming console, and yes, I know how weird that is, and that I am in a very small group of people here, but anyway, I have been hoping that Metroidvania titles would become more frequent in the AppStore. Phoenix Spirit and Grokion seemed to be the only titles within this genre for quite some time, but over the last year or so, Metroidvania fans have grown, or, more likely, have gotten iDevices, and releases like Elemental Rage, Miss Claire Garden, Cordy, Glowfish, Emberwind, BlibBlob, Shantae, SpyCorp, and a few more have added loads of fuel to the fire. Granted, not all of these are TRUE Metroidvania titles, but they do incorporate quite a bit of exploration, and for die-hard fans of the genre, that’s usually enough. So now, when a platformer comes along that has “exploration” mentioned within 5 feet of it, I’m usually one of the first people to jump all over it.

FireFruitForge has been working on a little game that’s going by the name Terra Noctis (originally named After Dark, if any readers out there heard of it a while back, but they decided to change the name so as not to run into any legal issues). It’s a retro inspired platformer, with influences from Super Mario Brothers, Donkey Kong, and has quite a bit of exploration thrown in as well. There are 3 difficulty levels, Normal, Hard, and Nightmare, with the harder difficulties having more enemies, more traps, and less platforms.
There are 40 levels spread across 4 different worlds. Each level has a 100% completion rate available for it; to get a 100% completion, you’ve got to find all 15 of the red fairies scattered throughout the level, the large gold coin, usually hidden in a harder to reach area of the level, and grab 5 orbs, each with a letter in them, spelling out S-C-A-R-E. There are also blue fairies in each level, which you can collect, and use to buy items in the game’s shop. In the shop, you’re able to buy extra lives, as well as power-ups that you can equip and use as many times as you like until you loose a life, or complete a level. All of the items in the shop are very reasonably priced, all between 80 and 150 fairies. If you explore a little bit in each level, you can usually get around 200-350+ fairies in each level. All of the levels are also re-playable after you beat them, so if you get stuck, you can go back and play some previously completed levels, and buy some items to help you.
The controls for Terra Noctis are set-up like most platformer games on the iOS. You’ve got your left/right arrows in the bottom left corner, and then your bottom right corner has your duck/smash/option button, and your jump button. While standing on the ground, your duck/smash/option button is used to duck, while in the air, it can be used to make your character, Allen, curl his legs up, and smash down into the ground, which can break certain blocks, and be used as an attack, and when in front of a cave entrance, can be used to enter the cave. Your jump button is pretty self-explanatory, and you are able to double-jump, or fall off of a cliff, and use your 2nd jump while falling, which does come in handy quite a bit. You are able to throw projectiles as well, and this is done by tapping and holding on the play area, and then dragging your finger to aim where you want to throw your projectile, having it fly in the direction chosen when you lift your finger. Tapping on the play area while you‘re in the air will allow Allen to throw a projectile straight forward, which works perfectly for taking out enemies on higher up platforms. The controls are tight, and very responsive. Actually, they’re probably some of the most responsive controls for a non-speed run platformer within the AppStore. The movement arrows could go to be a tad bit smaller, but they are very transparent, so they don’t really get in the way. Would just be nice to have it look a little slicker.
Now, once you start up the game, choose a difficulty, enter the first level, and start making your way to the end of the level, you’ll notice immediately that the level design is very well thought out. You’ll have quite a bit to look forward to as you make your way through the game, because it only gets better as you progress. The level design throughout the game is actually some of the best I’ve ever experienced. The amount of time and thought that must have gone into the design is apparent pretty much every step you make. Not to mention how much time must have gone into testing the levels to make sure jumps were just right, and everything got lined up perfectly.
Another aspect of the game that jumps right out at you once you first start playing are the graphics. The colors that have been chosen, the details that have been included, the backgrounds, objects throughout the levels that you can interact with, and objects that you can’t, there is not one thing that looks like it doesn‘t belong. The entire Terra Noctis world is mind-blowing. Smooth, modern graphics and textures that still hold a retro feeling within them, making it feel old-school while still being graphically impressive by the standards of today’s iOS games. This, along with the awesome back-ground-music, and smooth as butter animations for everything from walking and flying, to the fairies life like movement and particles of dust traveling through the air comes together to create one hell of an immersive environment.
On top of everything else, the amount of enemies you’ll face while making your way through the game is just perfect. Once you get through the first world, and start on the second, you might start to wonder if you’ve seen all the enemies there is to see, and then one will pop up that you haven’t run into previously. Then another, and another. To make things even more impressive, all of the enemy designs are incredibly well done, and fit perfectly within the game. There are also bosses at the end of each world, all of which are amazingly well done, with battles that change up the gameplay quite a bit, and throw an extremely high scoring situation at the player.
It’s clear, after playing the game, that Terra Noctis is very deserving of it’s $2.99 price-tag, if not more. Being Universal, including iCade support, the amount of content, especially for 100% completionist fanatics, and the OpenFeint leaderboards, 24 hard to snag achievements, as well as top scores for each level that are shown at the level select screen, should keep any gamer, even platformer fanatics, busy for quite some time. It’s easily one of the best platform games I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing, and the amount of work, time, effort, and testing that has gone into Terra Noctis, shines through with every single frame of the game. After being able to play this for the last two weeks, I can very confidently say that it is my #3 favorite game of 2011, right under Space Tripper and Anomaly Warzone Earth. With Normal difficulty very reminiscent of the difficulty in old-school Mario games, Terra Noctis is great for all gamers, and is HIGHLY recommended. FireFruitForge has given iOS gamers a phenomenal piece of art all wrapped up in a tightly controlled, highly enjoyable, modern/old-school mesh of a video game. Everyone with an iDevice should grab it as soon as possible

Bulkypix and FireFruitForge’s retro platformer, Terra Noctis hits the AppStore tonight!

Last week, we posted an announcement for developer, FireFruitForge’s title, Terra Noctis (being published by Bulkypix). If you didn’t have a chance to read the announcement, you can here. Terra Noctis is a retro-inspired platformer, influenced by the likes of Super Mario Brothers, and Donkey Kong, and has quite a bit of exploration tossed in, which expands the gameplay and level design quite a bit. Well, after obsessing over the game for the last couple of weeks, we’ll finally be able to gush over the game with everyone else.
40 levels spread across 4 worlds, each having 100% completion available. To get it, you’ll need to grab 15 red fairies, which are scattered throughout the levels, the large gold coin, which is almost always hidden in a harder to reach area, and 5 orbs with letters in them, spelling out S-C-A-R-E. You can also track your stats, like how many gold coins you’ve collected, how many enemies you’ve killed, how many fairies you’ve collected, your total distance ran, fallen, and more.
The controls, graphics, physics, animations, level designs, gameplay mechanics, they are all top notch and extremely professional. The story in Terra Noctis is also a high point within the game. The main character, a little nightmare creature named Allen, is attending the local Nightmare School, but with the teachings, he’s still not quite scary enough. Then, after failing a test, he reads a local legend that says “Eat the heart of the scariest nightmare and become a scary nightmare, too.” Here is where his journey begins to become the scariest nightmare in the land.
Terra Noctis will be available tonight at 11PM, EST, and 8PM PST, in the US. It is a Universal app, and is also supported by OpenFeint, as well as having iCade computability. It’s easily one of the best platformers in the AppStore, if not the best, and ranks up there among the best platformers released on all consoles/platforms over the last 25+ years. FireFruitForge has definitely given gamers an exploratory platformer that hits all the right gaming nerves in our little video game obsessed brains. If you’re a fan of the genre, DO NOT let yourself miss out on this amazing game. Even if you’re not a fan of the genre, you should pick this one up, it might just make you a platformer freak.
You can also expect to see The App Shack’s review posted up tomorrow, if you’d like to wait and read some more in-depth information about the game.
You can also get some more info about the game on the FireFruitForge website;
on the Touch Arcade’s Upcoming Games Thread;
TA’s Main Game Thread;
and –
The Bulkypix Webiste;