Posts Tagged ‘ios game review’

Mobile Game Review: Ultima Forever

ultima-forever-1Produced by: EA’s Mythic Games
Available on: iOS
Cost: FREE
Reviewed on: iPhone 5S
Genre: Action/Adventure
Released: Aug. 7, 2013

Ultima Forever is a shockingly deep dungeon crawler available for the iPod (gen 5 and up). iPhone (4s and up), and iPad (gen 2 and up), which you can play alone or with friends – whether it’s people you know on Facebook , or random strangers who just happen to be online at the same time as you. The game brilliantly balances depth and simplicity, and it impresses both visually and aurally. The controls are all very simple and intuitive, but the amount of content in the game makes it hard to believe it is a free-to-play game on a phone.

ultima-forever-2The action primarily consists of navigating towns and dungeons and battling monsters. Movement is controlled through simply holding your finger down in front of your character in the direction you want them to go, and battle is done through tapping on enemies. Depth is added in a number of ways. The most obvious one is weapon and armor upgrades (including matching visual changes in-game). There are also special moves to unlock, which are activated through an icon on the left of the screen. Later levels unlock additional icon slots so players can have more of their special moves available at a time. There are also eight Virtues which are important both to the story and the mechanics of the game. Players will be asked to make choices which will affect their stats and which options will be available in the future.

The game is free to play, but like any major iOS game it has a means to buy bonuses. In this case those bonuses come in the form of keys. Keys can be found all throughout the game (including daily bonuses for things as simple as just logging on), and they come in various types – bronze, silver and gold. Along the way through dungeons, players will encounter chests. Each chest can be opened with a certain number of bronze, silver, or gold keys. The rarer the keys used to pay, the better the loot. It’s a simple way to buy bonuses that still allows non-paying players to enjoy their own progression without feeling like they’re missing out on entire features of the game.

ultima-forever-iphone-screen02-iosI generally try to balance things by having at least some positive and some negative comments about each game, but honestly I can’t think of much to critique here besides the lack of playable classes. As far as I could determine, the only options are a warrior (aka melee) and a mage (aka range). On the plus side, they at least let you have one save slot for each. The only other gripe that comes to mind was a frustrating number of connection losses.

Gameplay: 9.5/10 – If you’re a fan of Diablo, Torchlight, or any other dungeon grinding loot hoarding game, you’ll love this game. The action and customization are substantial and the story is The lack of classes does affect replay value, but compared to other games on the same platform for the same price the amount of content and polish is astounding.

Graphics: 9/10Ultima Forever is a very good looking game, and it uses the retina display (when available) to great effect for crisp, sharp visuals. Sometimes the models look a bit bulky and simplistic, but really that’s just because we’ve been spoiled by advanced handheld gaming devices. Compared the gaming-specific devices, the graphics are nothing special. But compared to other games on the iPhone they are masterful.

ultima-forever-quest-for-the-avatar_moral-quandrySound: 8/10 – The game recommends headphones when playing, and I can see why. The sound is great without headphones – good music, plenty of sound effects, and moderate voice acting – but the nuance really comes to life with the surround-sound capabilities of quality headphones.

Overall: 9.5/10 – I don’t like to give out 10/10s on principal. Nothing is perfect and it would be a lie to say it is. The connection issues were annoying and the cap at two playable classes is pretty limiting. But beyond those minor grievances this is one of the most well-rounded gaming experiences I’ve had on the iPhone. Ultima Forever is a very full gaming experience, all for an amazing price of zero dollars. It’s a hard deal to turn down.

No review codes or review requests were made for this game.  This was a game reviewed at the request of the managing editor.

Mobile Game Review: Galaxy Run

1_TitleProduced by: Spiel Studios
Available on: iOS
Cost: $.99
Reviewed on: iPad
Genre: Action/Puzzle Runner
Released: Dec. 4, 2013

Mechanically, Galaxy Run is a simple enough game. The majority of the strategy comes from tapping the screen at the right time. But the folks at Spiel Studios have done a great job of taking that simple control scheme and pushing it to some impressive lengths.

Players control Rez, a space explorer who has crash-landed and is trying to run, jump, and dodge his way home. One tap will send Rez running, and a tap after he’s moving will make him jump. Things get more complex with the introduction of different items and power-ups. Early on players will encounter relatively simple items like moving platforms and double jumps. More advanced elements include speed boosters and gravity inverters. By the last level players are bouncing off trampolines, swinging from grappling hooks, and flying with jetpacks – all done with a simple one-touch control scheme.

2_StoryI was surprisingly impressed by some of the later levels, especially considering the fact that I was admittedly a bit underwhelmed with the first few stages. I should have recognized, though, that the early stages were simple for a reason – to teach new players the basic mechanics of the game. I underestimated how much Spiel would be able to mix up the simple control scheme and keep the gameplay fresh.

Still, while they certainly proved able to push the bounds of the gameplay, those limitations do still exist and they definitely make their presence felt over time. The game feels like it wants to be in league with Angry Birds in terms of simple-control iOS games, but unlike Angry Birds it seems like Galaxy Run levels tend to have one set correct sequence to win (though there are some exceptions). As a result, the strategy is less about devising a plan so much as perfecting your timing. This is fine in its own right, and I did still enjoy my playthrough, but it hurts the replay value significantly. The only real incentive to play the level again is to get more stars, but since the number of stars earned is based on the number of failed attempts it means that if you want those stars you pretty much have to quit the level and load it again every time you fail. Not exactly a huge incentive-booster.

02_Gameplay_Speedboard_ScreenshotGameplay: 6.5/10
The premise and execution on Galaxy Run are both simple enough to allow any skill level to enjoy the game. But while Spiel says the game is simple to learn but difficult to master, others may consider mastering it to be rather simple too. The main difficulty can come less from figuring out the answer to the puzzle and more from seemingly miniscule differences in timing that will determine success or failure.

Graphics: 6/10
Galaxy Run has relatively simple graphics that definitely do NOT push the limitations of the iPad. Still, the graphics are clear and easy to identify, and they are hardly BAD looking. Like the gameplay itself, the graphics are more utilitarian than impressive.

Sound: 5.5/10
The sound effects in Galaxy Run are your typical gaming fare. I did dock a point though for the game’s main theme song. I only took one year of music theory for fun, but I don’t have to know art to know what I like. And there’s just something about those opening chords every time I load the app that makes me grit my teeth a bit more each time.

09_Gameplay_Die_ScreenshotOverall: 7/10
Galaxy Run is an interesting specimen of a game. You may notice that each individual element has scored lower than the overall total. How can this be you ask? It’s because the game is a perfect example of a whole being greater than the sum of its parts. The graphics aren’t stellar, but they do their job well enough to support the gameplay. In turn, the gameplay isn’t groundbreaking, but it manages to surprise despite its limitations. In the end, the game knows what it is setting out to accomplish, and it accomplishes it well.

Review code provided by Spiel Studios’ PR Company.

You can view the official game trailer below.  Enjoy!

Mobile Game Review: Elixir: The League of Immortality

elixir-logoPublished By: g5 Games
Available On: iOS
Reviewed on: iPad
Genre: Puzzle/Adventure
Released: Dec. 5, 2013

Like other games from g5, Elixir is the iPad equivalent of a point-and-click adventure game. The basic game mechanics involve navigating and investigating a series of static scenes. Along the way, you must solve puzzles and overcome obstacles in order to make progress. From a technical standpoint this type of game is relatively simple, which makes it a popular choice for smaller studios. It also lends itself to more of a literary experience, with reliance on story and characters over action and competition.

That doesn’t mean that good presentation isn’t important, though, and for what it is Elixir stands out as a wonderful example of presentation done right. Right off the bat the game shows much better animation and video than its g5 peers, but honestly I can forgive a game with unimpressive graphics if the game works its mechanics well. Luckily Elixir doesn’t stop at pretty graphics and really explores the possibilities of the genre. One simple example (slight spoilers) is when a demon appears across the room and you have to pull your gun from your inventory to activate a shooting animation. It’s a small effect, but the moment of interactivity that breaks the norm definitely stands out in a good way, and it is only one of multiple instances of its kind.

elixir-2The best part is that there is actually a story. Far too many of these games just string together puzzles with the thinnest links that happen to be available. There’s less of a plot and more a collection of imagery that is more or less thematically related. Elixir, by contrast, has clear characters, a definite conflict, and a sensible path to the resolution. A big part of what makes this work is unfortunately part of what will inevitably turn some people off: The game uses are considerable amount of notes and journals and other forms of written clues scattered throughout the world. Sure, an occasional puzzle may be kind of silly – who seriously files their documents and labels them by icons of different activities that they do at different times of day? – but overall the game tells an admirably sensible story.

The only complaint I have that is big enough to warrant mentioning is the overabundance of I-Spy style hidden object minigames. All g5 games include these, and a few per game is fine. But Elixir throws them at you constantly. It wouldn’t be as bad except for the fact that the other puzzles are so good by comparison. It is a sizeable shift in mental gears to go from logical puzzle games to a screen with a list of items on the bottom, 1/3rd of which can be eliminated right away by just tapping randomly on the screen. Maybe the developers believed the lie that this is a “Hidden Objects” game, as it is labeled in the app store. But the truth is that the game is a point-and-click mystery game, and as long as it treats itself as such it does splendidly.

elixir-3Gameplay: 9/10
The trick with point-and-click adventure games is that in a functional sense the ‘gameplay’ is rather limited. Instead, the decisions made by the designers within those limitations become the real selling point. With that in mind, Elixir does it right. They have a clear, direct story with characters and motives and plot developments. They are all a bit clunky, to be fair, but considering the format they were being presented in I have seen much worse. Plus the puzzles are a great balance between too easy and too hard.

Graphics: 9.5/10
I’ve seen a number of these g5 games now, both the regular and the HD flavors. The graphics are never awe-inspiring, but they usually get the job done. Elixir’s graphics are in a similar class, but it’s the valedictorian of that class. The game uses more animation than its peers, and the animations are all much better looking too.

elixir-4Sound: 7/10
Like other games in this line, the sound in the game is pretty much irrelevant. The game has music and sound effects of course, but it’s more that they fill the obvious void that would be there without them than anything else. When the sound effects do come up they’re generally satisfying enough, but that is offset by the music being a bit on the monotonous and repetitive side.

Overall: 9/10
More games of this genre should be taking notes from Elixir. The game tells a good story the way the genre was meant to, and it does so with quality graphics and great puzzles. If you’re into the genre then this is a great choice.

You can view a trailer for this game below:

Review code for this game provided by G5 Entertainment.

Multi-Platform Game Review: Organ Trail

Organ-trail-logoPublished by: The Men Who Wear Many Hats
Available for: iOS, Android, PC, Mac, Linux and Steam
Reviews on: PC and Android
Genre: Choose-your-own-adventure Zombie survival
Released: Jan. 10, 2013

Depending on your age, you may remember playing the Sierra Games classic, Oregon Trail, at school. If you were really lucky, and your parents had a lot of money, you got to play it on an Apple II at home. Personally, I remember playing the game a lot at school and only getting to the end once. It was a hard game filled with a lot of hard choices for a 10-year-old. But it’s a game we look back on fondly.

“NAME died of dysentery” is probably one of the most common quotes people give from the game.

If you miss the game, or just want to revisit the classic, you can download it and play it through Chrome here: http://www.virtualapple.org/oregontraildisk.html

Organ-trail-8But if you want to see the modern take on the game, which is what this article is about, check out Organ Trail – a morbid twist on the iconic Oregon Trail game. Produced by The Men Who Wear Many Hats and released Jan. 10, 2013, the game is available for purchase, download and play via iOS, Android, PC, Mac, Linux and Steam. You can play a flash version of their game, for free, here: http://hatsproductions.com/organtrail.html

They describe the game as “a retro zombie survival game. Travel westward in a station wagon with 4 of your friends, scavenging for supplies and fending off the undead; Faithfully recreated it as if it were on the Apple 2. Packed full of zombie mechanics, themes and references; this is a must have for any zombie survival fans.”

I first encountered Organ Trail at PAX East 2012 when it was still in development and was enamoured with the idea and kept an eye on it as it developed. When Humble Bundle had it as a part of one of their Android bundles, I immediately picked up the bundle so i could play and test the game on multiple platforms. It’s rare that I get the opportunity to play games on more than one platform and see how they compare to each other.

Organ-trail-6You start the game learning there has been a zombie apocalypse. You have to fight your way to safety. As you are fighting, you are joined by a priest named Clements. He rescues you and asks you if you know of anyone who would be handy in this situation. You and him talk and head to D.C. to pick up your friends…in a station wagon.

I won’t spoil the story too much, but Clements isn’t with you for long, but gives you his diary to help you out, explaining how much of what things you need. You and your party leave D.C. to head cross country with the supplies you’ve scavenged thus far. Just like in Oregon trail, things break on your station wagon, friends get hurt. They may get by a zombie and you may be forced to put them down, or they may get dysentary, or one of 9 other diseases, and if you don’t heal them with medkits they eventually die. As you travel from city to city, you have to scavenge for supplies such as food, ammo, fuel, money, medkits and car scraps and upgrades to survive. You can also buy, sell or trade for items at each town or rest stop. Pay close attention to the health of your car and your party members. Rest to heal, but know for each hour you rest you consume food. Repair your car when needed. You can even take on jobs at towns to earn money or parts.

Organ-trail-2As you travel, you have to survive driving through a horde of zombies, being chased by zombie dogs and other animals or fighting off bikers and bandits. Factor in a day and night cycle and a weather system and the game becomes very interesting and challenging.

I have yet to reach the final location of the game on the West Coast on either PC or Android, but I have made it decently far before I died. The game creates a custom tombstone with a phrase of your choice when you die and your score can be posted to the leaderboards.

Gameplay: 8/10 for PC; 5 of 10 for Android
There is a huge difference in controls for this game depending on the platform it’s played on. For PC, the controls were great. You were able to aim your rifle with your mouse and move around better than when playing on Android. With Android, you can try to aim the rifle, but unless you are very accurate with your fingers and you don’t slip up, it’s hard to aim and hit the zombies coming after you.

Organ-trail-4Graphics: 9/10 for both
If you keep in mind that the game is 16-bit and still looks good while being a stylized-retro game, you’ll understand why I rate the graphics 9/10. It’s not designed to look like a modern game. It’s designed to look like a late 80’s game and in that aspect they did extremely well.

Sound: 9/10
Also created in classic, retro tradition, the music fits the 16-bit game. If you’re interested in the game’s soundtrack, you can download all of the tracks, for free from here: http://hatsproductions.com/organtrailsoundtrack.html

Story: 8/10
The story is very simple, very easy to follow and in the same mindset of Oregon Trail. Long story short, you’re traveling West to escape the zombie apocalypse with your friends in a Station Wagon.

Organ-trail-1Overall: 8.5/10
Packed full of zombie mechanics, themes, references and challenges, this is an extremely fun and frustrating retro zombie survival game. If you liked Oregon Trail as a kid, this is another game you would enjoy on any platform. If you want to test it out before you buy it, play the flash version linked above.

Disclaimer:  Author purchased the games through Humble Bundle and chose to review the game with her purchase.  No codes were given in exchange for review.

Check out the video below for a teaser of the game:

About Grace "Kayhynn" Snoke

Grace Snoke is a corporate journalist and author who enjoys gaming, reading, writing and jewelry making. Outside of her day job, she writes for a number of sites including: Video Game Scoreboard.com, Obsolete Gamer, SciTech Nerds and for a couple blogs and sites she owns. You can learn more about her adventures as an author here.

Mobile Game Review: Mystery of the Opera

 mystery-of-the-opera-titlePublished by: G5 Games
Available for: iOS
Reviews on: iPad
Genre: Puzzle/Adventure
Released: Nov. 7, 2013

Mystery of the Opera is your basic iPad equivalent of a point-and-click adventure game.  Like other games of this genre, the mechanics are relatively easy to program which makes them ideal templates for startup developers.  But just because the system is technically easier doesn’t mean that it is easy to make a good game.  Games are still art (regardless of what Rodger Ebert said – RIP), and a limitation in one area just demands more expression elsewhere.

Sadly, Mystery of the Opera (MotO) doesn’t seem to share the same philosophy.  The developers seem more interested in an experiment of how quickly they can throw together these copy-and-paste games.  The real shame is that it doesn’t have to be this way.  I just reviewed a similar game by g5 called Temptation, which has nearly identical mechanics but much better delivery.

mystery-of-the-opera-2Right from the title the game shows little shame about being a thinly veiled rip-off of The Phantom of the Opera, only written by people who knew nothing about The Phantom of the Opera beyond the fact that is involved a guy in a mask kidnapping a girl at the opera.  Now, as a literature buff, that irks me enough as it is, but I can forgive it.  What I can’t forgive is grammar that is consistently poor and occasionally flat-out incorrect.  In this genre more than any other the story is what will set a game apart for better or worse, and trying to tell that story with broken sentence structure is inexcusable.

Some of the other issues are more personal taste than objective mistakes, but they are worth noting.   For one, while a game like this is supposed to have backtracking, there are better and worse ways to do it.  A well balanced amount of backtracking will have the player moving around and exploring the map thoroughly with occasional returns to a spot long since passed but finally made relevant.  A poorly balanced amount of backtracking will have players running back and forth from one extreme end to the other with no objectives in between.  The puzzles in MotO were surprisingly difficult, which I personally like as a puzzle fan, but the challenge seems out of place in the otherwise easy (if tedious) game.  Finally, MotO falls into the same classic trap as many games in the genre fall prey to: redundant items.  I know that making me collect a bunch of different items is pretty much the bulk of the game, but why do I have to go find a letter opener to cut open a chair cushion when I’m already carrying a dagger?  It’s just sloppy storytelling.

Gameplay: 4/10 – It is never easy to rate a point-and-click game’s gameplay, since the architecture of the game is so relatively simple.  But the poorly written text, overabundance of backtracking, and inconsistent difficulty level all do serious damage to the gameplay experience.

mystery-of-the-opera-3Graphics: 5/10 – I went in to MotO without very high expectations for the graphics, and I got what I was prepared for.  The visuals aren’t eyesores, but they certainly don’t do much to impress.  As such I gave them a dead-average at 5.

Sound: 5.5/10 – Pretty much the same deal here as the graphics.  I gave the sound an extra +2 above average because I can always just turn the sound off and play without it.  Then I took off 1.5 because of how often I had to turn the sound off to get over the annoying music.

Overall: 5/10 – Mystery of the Opera would have been an impressive game 20 years ago when any functional game with characters and graphics was an accomplishment.  But these days there’s no excuse for putting together such a sloppy piece of code, especially considering the fact that many g5 games seem to be constructed from the same engine.  It’s like ‘ve been saying throughout this review– a limited system is not an excuse for a poor game.

You can see a preview game trailer below.

Review code for this game provided by G5 Entertainment.

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