Saturday, April 20, 2013
Saturday, April 20, 2013 Syntheticvoid No comments
I will admit that I’m not a huge fan of Point & Click games, but there are a few that have grabbed my attention over the years. Of course, the classics; Myst, Riven and The Last Express, but also a few that I had the chance to play primarily because of their appearance in the AppStore; Machinarium, Another World, Yesterday and The Walking Dead. Well, now I can add one more title to this very short list of games that have completely blown me away. Gemini Rue. Originally released for the PC back in 2011, Gemini Rue has made its way to the touch screen and, even on the smaller iPhone/iPod screens, it’s a perfect fit.
Developed by Joshua Nuernberger and published by Wadjet Eye Games, the same developer/publisher team that released the PC version, the iOS port is basically an exact copy of the original. Aside from the controls, iOS gamers now have the option of playing one of the best Point & Click titles to date. Gemini Rue has won multiple awards, being named Gamespy’s Adventure Game of the Year, Aggies awards for best story, best setting and best independent adventure, as well as winning the AGS Awards for best gameplay, best original story, best player character, best background art, best character art and best sound effects, not to mention being named PC Gamer’s Adventure Game of the Year, all in 2011. If that isn’t enough to push you into dropping the measly $4 for the game, I don’t know what is. Even gamers who are not fans of Point and Click Adventure games have a very high chance of falling completely in love with Gemini Rue.
It is surprising that no awards were given for the games soundtrack, as it’s one of the best compositions I’ve heard in a video game. Nathan Allen Pinard composed the BGM, and it’s fantastic, adding immensely to the dark and dreary atmosphere found within the game. The dark buildings and rainy cityscapes definitely add to the tense feeling and cyberpunk themes found throughout the story. Even the brightly lit hospital like areas of the game have a creepy feeling of solitude, even when other characters are present. This also fits in with the plot, as you never know who you can trust or what the NPC’s are going to do or how they’ll react to you, helping to make it feel like you are completely alone in the world of Gemini Rue.
The game takes place in the 23rd century in the Gemini System. A system that’s recently been torn apart by war, and is under the control of the Yakuza, referred to as the Boryokudan (meaning ‘Violence Group’, which is what the media and police call the Yakuza). Throughout the game, you’ll control multiple characters; Azriel, an ex-assassin turned lawman who is searching for his brother, Daniel, Azriel’s brother who is also referred to as Alpha-Six and Matthius, one of Azriel’s old friends from when he was an assassin. I won’t get too much into the story, as the plot and how it unfolds is a major part of the game, but essentially, you’ll be searching for Daniel, who’s been kidnapped by the Boryokudan, with Matthius’s help.
One of many notable aspects of the game is how the tutorial is presented. Instead of just having a help section, or giving you a brief ‘how-to’ at the beginning of the game, you’ll learn how to do things as you need to. But these actions are also flawlessly woven into the story, adding another layer of evolution into the game. Another aspect that’s not too common in Point & Click games; gunplay. You’re able to duck behind cover deciding when you want to point your head out so that you can fire. There’s also a breath-holding mechanic that gives you the ability to one-hit-kill enemies with a headshot if pulled off right by shooting when your breath gauge is in the green.
Graphically, Gemini Rue does look a little blurred, but the retro feeling of the graphics mixed with modern graphical techniques is pulled off perfectly giving the game a ton of atmospheric qualities. As we already said, the soundtrack also helps complete the atmosphere giving the game a feeling within the setting that would be a perfect fit for any one of William Gibson or Neal Stephenson’s novels. The animations however, are a tad bit clunky. I can’t help but feel like if the animations were a little smoother, it would have added yet another level of immersion to the gameplay. That isn’t to say that the animations are not noteworthy, because they are still well done, it just so happens that they stand out because the rest of the game is so unbelievably polished.
Aside from the animations, the only other negative thing that I can say about the game is the lack of GameCenter. Achievements would have been a great addition for this mobile port. However, like the animations, this isn’t something that takes away from the game at all. I never found myself saying ‘I’d be more inclined to play this game if it had GameCenter integration’, it just would have been an added little plus if it was included. Being Universal and priced at $3.99, Gemini Rue is a steal (especially taking into account that the PC version is $9.99), and we really can not recommend it enough. I know we say that a lot here, especially lately, but Gemini Rue is one of very few games that has secured it’s spot on our Game Of The Year list. It’s a title that every iOS gamer should experience. We also hope to see more of Wadjet Eye Game’s published titles hit the AppStore in the future, especially if they’re anywhere near the same level as Gemini Rue.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
Thursday, April 18, 2013 Syntheticvoid No comments
As you probably already know if you’re even an occasional reader here at The App Shack, one of our favorite iOS RPG publishers is Kemco. The previous releases of Alphadia 1+2, Dark Gate, Grinsia, Aeon Avenger, Eve of the Genesis and Fantasy Chronicle are some of our top favorites within the Turn-Based RPG genre. But the game that got all of our love started, Symphony of Eternity, has finally gotten a sequel. Well, prequel if you want to get technical. Symphony of the Origin went live in English language AppStores last week and after spending about 7 hours with it I can easily say that SotO is my second favorite Kemco title, right after Dark Gate.
Right off the bat, there are some things that stand out; Symphony of the Origin, like Kemco’s last release Aeon Avengers, is Universal. It also supports the new hardware’s 4 inch widescreen. Now, it’s not too apparent by looking at the screenshots in iTunes, but SotO also has some of the best graphics for a Kemco title to date, that combined with the depth of the equip system, all make this stand out as a step closer for Kemco being on the same level as Square in the RPG world.
The equip/item system is definitely one of the many highlights here. Instead of going from town to town purchasing stronger weapons, you’re given the option to upgrade your current weapons. You can also purchase new weapons and trade them out, but skills are locked to them until you reach a 100% mastered portion, at which time the skill be then be available no matter what weapon you have equipped. There are also 3 parts to every weapon; The main weapon (sword, hammer, bow, ect), hilt/arrows and grip/string/guard, each having different perks and stats and with the ability to interchange them all with one another so long as your character uses that type of weapon (for instance, you can not equip a bow string to a sword or hammer, or a sword guard or hilt to a bow, for obvious reasons).
Another aspect of the game that stands out are the voice samples. During battles, your characters will spit out exclamations as they fight, and a phrase at the end of each battle. For some, this might become annoying, and there is an option to adjust the music, fx and voice volumes individually if that’s the case, but personally, I think it adds to the whole aesthetic of the game.
Last thing, before we get into more of the gameplay; SOP Currency. SOP Currency can be purchased through IAPs. It is not required to purchase items, as all shop items can be purchased with the gold that you’ll earn from battles and treasure chests, but instead, is used as a sort of ‘cheat’ currency. With SOP, you’re able to purchase useful quest items like gold in clumps of 10,000, special herbs, potions, gems, elixirs and more that can all be used to cure and strengthen your team, as well as damage enemies. There are also special locations on the map which you can unlock with SOP Currency, giving you access to a sorcerer’s house who helps you master all of the finishing moves you have yet to learn, and 3 separate dungeon areas, each with their own boss. You can also purchase some special training and characters. In the game, two characters will join up with you for short periods of time. You can unlock them and have them available to you at any point in the game if you purchase them with SOP. You can also get special training and boost up your Merit Points max level limit. We’ll get into what more of this means as we get further on in the review, but the thing that is most important is that you do not need to spend another dime after the original purchase of the game in order to complete it. In fact, as you complete battles, you can convert those won battles to SOP Currency. By the end of the game, even without grinding, you should have enough battles won to convert to SOP Currency to unlock some of the cooler areas and ‘cheats’, which also carry over to a New Game+ if you decide to play through the game a second time.
Now, starting off the game, you’ll be able to choose between Normal and Hard Difficulties. If you’re familiar with RPG titles, I’d recommend just going head in on the Hard Difficulty, as ‘Normal’ is more for new-comers to the genre. There’s an NPC in one of the early towns that will let you change from Hard Difficulty to Normal if you’re finding the game too hard. But you can not change from Normal to Hard, so keep that in mind going in to the game.
Story-wise, the game is about humans, elves and dwarves, all living on Earth together, though still separated by geography because of their skills and habits. Humans on the plains, elves in the forests and dwarves in the mountains. Still, their lives are peaceful, and there is no war between the races. Inhuman creatures called ‘Evils of the Earth-depths’, as they reside in the bowels of the Earth, have attacked, trying to take over the Earth’s surface. Your main character, Ryle, is a young knight in training at the time that the human’s castle is attacked. During the attack, Ryle falls through the floor and into a secret area of the castle where a golem is hidden. Once coming within range of the golem, it is activated. Since no one knows exactly why the golem is activated by Ryle, the king decides to keep the two paired together, and sends them to the other races to show the human made golem to them, in search of answers. As you start your journey, more members will join your team while you look for information and try to find out why the evils are attacking and try to force them back into the depths of Earth.
It’s not too original in terms of the plot, but like Kemco’s other published titles, Symphony of the Origin is very well written and translated. There are a few grammatical errors, but you’ll never be stuck wondering what is actually going on within the game. But, like their previous releases, the plot and writing is also one of the biggest things that holds it back from being on the same level as Square’s Final Fantasy, or any of their other RPG, titles. Personally, I love Kemco’s stories, and feel that they are very well written. But I will also admit that they’re lacking when compared to Square’s writing. This shouldn’t deter you from purchasing this wonderful title, but if you go into the game expecting it to match up to the level of FF titles, you might very well be disappointed.
It’s still very clear that a lot of time, effort, love and care has gone into creating the world for Symphony of the Origin. And it’s definitely worth it’s original asking price of $10.99 (though it is on sale ATM for $3.99). SotO is also the second Kemco title that’s Universal, and the third that supports the 5th Generation’s wider screens. With the jump up in quality all around, it’s incredibly easy to recommend this title to RPG fans, especially fans of old-school RPGs. If you’re a new-comer to the Kemco world, Symphony of the Origin just might be the perfect title to start out with. It definitely has secured it’s place on our list of favorite Turn-Based RPG titles on the iOS, and comes with a heavy recommendation. As always, we can’t wait to see what Kemco releases next.
Friday, April 12, 2013
Friday, April 12, 2013 Syntheticvoid 1 comment
The iDevice is home to many bite sized games that are surprisingly incredibly addictive. It’s also a refuge for retro graphics trying to find their core audience. Mixing these two aspects together, Pixel Licker Game’s new title, Slayin, published by the very respectable FDG Entertainment, has already risen to the top of the iTunes paid charts, sharing the company of Bad Piggies, Minecraft, Temple Run, Angry Birds and others. If that’s not enough for you to check it out, there’s also a flash version of the game which was released in late 2011, and can be played on Pixel Licker’s homepage. But still, here’s (hopefully) all the info you’ll need about the iOS version.
Slayin, on the surface, is a simple endless retro RPG title. Each stage is screen sized, meaning that there is no side-scrolling involved. Enemies either drop down from the sky or come up from the ground, and you’re job is to kill them, collect the items they leave behind, purchase upgrades, defeat bosses and get the highest score you can, earning Fame Points which can be used to permanently unlock more features like extra characters and gameplay modes, among other things like cosmetic skins and designs/items for your graveyard. However, the more you play, the deeper the game gets with some very nice mechanics.
Control wise, you’re given two directional buttons and an action button. Depending on your character, the action button is either used for jumping, or attacking. With your default character that is unlocked at the very beginning of the game, it’s used for jumping. Now, the directional buttons might not work exactly how you might think. Your character will always be moving, never coming to a complete stop unless running against the side of the screens. The directional buttons are used to simply change the direction that your character constantly moves in. This means that if you want your character to stay in one place, you’ll need to quickly slide your finger back and forth between the left and right buttons. Luckily, staying in one place isn’t really something that you’ll be trying to do too often.
Two of the three characters will always be attacking, at least in one direction. Your first unlocked character, the Knight, will be able to attack in the direction that he’s facing with his sword. Even though he is holding a shield in his other hand, it’s only cosmetic, and anything that runs into his shield will actually harm him. However, each of the characters do have different attack, defense and luck stats, and the Knight’s defense is the strongest of the three. The second character is the Wizard. She is the only character that, instead of jumping with the action button, attacks with it. When the action button is pressed, she will quickly spin around for a few seconds, killing anything she comes into contact with. There is a short cooling off period after attacks so that you can not just spam the action button and never be harmed, but her attack is also the strongest of the three. The last character you can choose is the Knave. This dual-knife wielding character can attack characters from both sides, meaning that any characters that run into his back will be instantly killed. However, he has the least amount of defense, but the best luck, which does come in handy after the first couple of levels.
Now, you are able to purchase health from the NPC shop character that drops down midway through stages as well as right after every boss battle. But sometimes things just get so hectic that that’s not going to be enough. This is where one of the cooler gameplay mechanics comes into play; silver, gold and all of the little trinkets and diamonds that enemies drop do restore some health. The more rare an item is, the more health it restores. As you build up your hit combo, you’ll eventually hit 30, which starts enemies dropping gold. Build up your combo even more, and they’ll start dropping gold chains, goblets, diamonds and more. Not only are these used to restore a little bit of health, but also help add to your score. Tied in with all of this is your combo’s no-damage multiplier. Kill enemies and keep that combo up, and your multiplier will grow and grow until you do get hit. One hit though, and it’s back to 0x, however, your combo that builds up for gold and item drops keeps building until you do not kill an enemy quickly enough, and the meter empties. It all adds quite a bit of depth and a heavy risk/reward aspect to the gameplay. You’re also able to purchase stronger weapons and special skills from the shop in-game. Though they are not permanent, they will definitely be something you’ll be tossing in-game currency into left and right if you’re a high-score chaser or just want to get further into the game.
There are IAPs included with a currency called Fame Points. But I was able to unlock all three characters, the Advanced Mode (which starts you out at level 80 instead of level 1) and the extra life item (which allows you to keep playing once you’ve lost all of your HP, but resets everything except your current stage progress back to 0) after playing for about 2 hours, which makes it not seem like so much of a grind. My best advice would be to unlock the Knave first, because you can earn more Fame Points with him and his high luck stat. But if you’d rather unlock everything straight away, you can get 5,000 FP for $0.99, 20,000 for $2.99 and 50,000 FP for $5.99. The Wizard is 3,000 FP, Knave is 5,000, Advanced Mode is 8,000, Boss Rush Mode (which is exactly what it sounds like, take on boss after boss until you die) for 10,000 FP and the extra life is 5,000 FP.
Like most other iOS games, Slayin also has a massive amount of quests, or objectives that, once completed, will help you earn some extra currency. Things like ‘Defeat xBOSSx Perfectly’ ‘Get a combo of XX’ ‘Kill XX enemies with XX weapon’ and others. There are 3 different difficulties to the objectives, with the easy ones giving out 50 coins upon completion, the medium ones giving out 150 coins and the hard quests giving you 300 coins. On top of the extra characters and gameplay modes, there are skins for the controls which cost 500-600 FP, and items that you can decorate your fallen hero’s gravestone with, ranging from 500 FP to 5,000 FP per item. These gravestones are visible to your GameCenter friends who also have the game. There are also options for changing the movement buttons to the left side of the screen as well as adding scanlines to the game to give it that ‘official’ old-school vibe. There are 5 leaderboards in GameCenter, one for your highest score, one for each individual character and another for Boss Rush Mode. There are also 23 achievements to help add to the replay value and challenge of the game ranging from ‘Unlock the Knave’ or ‘Unlock the Wizard’ to ‘Finish all quests with the Knight’ ‘Reach Level 100’ ‘Get a combo of 222’ and more.
Slayin, like many iOS games that started out as flash games, is a perfect fit for the iDevice. Games last around 5 minutes, the more you play, the more the game opens up and there’s always going to be a score to chase. Pixel Licker Games has done a fantastic job with Slayin, as well as with porting it over to the touch-screen. The controls are spot on, and the gameplay is incredibly addictive and reminiscent of old-school gaming. I really can not recommend this one enough, as it’s going to be a game that never leaves my phone. Slayin is also Universal, and plays great on the larger iPad screen with it’s very generous touch-spots for the controls. Priced at a buck, it’s definitely a game that every iOS gamer should have in their collection.
Thursday, March 28, 2013
Thursday, March 28, 2013 Syntheticvoid No comments
Gamers always dream of their favorite console games being ported to the iOS. It’s just our nature. Being able to have our favorite games in our pockets is something that all of us want. Last year, when the official Borderlands iOS game was released, the hype that built was outstanding. Needless to say, once more and more information about the title became available, that hype dwindled and once the game finally hit the AppStore, there was quite a bit of backlash from both Borderlands fans and just curious parties. It was a major flop, to say the least. Well, now iOS gamers can rejoice yet again, because without warning, Freyr Games, developers of the 3rd person shooter Star Warfare, has just released the sequel, Star Warfare: Black Dawn. With little advertising, and almost no hype, especially considering what the game is, we finally have it; Borderlands on the iOS.
Not to say that this is a direct clone. But just about everything that made Borderlands so incredibly great can be found in Black Dawn; The different skill trees, hundreds of random weapon drops, multiple characters, each with different pros and cons, warp gates, open environments, damage pop-ups all over the place, and even kill for second chance mechanics. Unfortunately, there are a couple of things missing; the spoken dialogue, massive injections of humor, vehicles, jump & sprint actions. Though it’s hard to hold that against Black Dawn when so much of the game is done right, and offered for a measly couple bucks. And as crazy as it is being able to play a game of this caliber on our phones and tablets, with as much as the game has taken from it’s console inspiration, it’s almost impossible not to compare the two, and judge Black Dawn based on what Borderlands is.
Black Dawn lets you choose between 8 different characters and 4 different classes (one male, one female for each class); Prayer, the medic class, Engineer, the geek class, Soldier, the powerful class and Sniper, the ‘foxy class’. Prayer class characters can set up a healing station, Engineer’s can drop machine gun turrets while Soldiers can set up an Avatar to distract enemies and keep them busy and the Sniper can set traps. Each class has 3 different skill trees that they can build up and pick skills from. These extra buffs help immensely throughout the whole game for taking out higher level enemies to level up quicker, or if you just get in trouble and need a little extra boost to help you get out of a jam.
Now, a Borderlands clone wouldn’t be complete without an online feature; it’s definitely one of the things that made Borderlands so incredibly fun, and as you can guess if you’re familiar with Star Warfare, Freyr Games knows what it takes to support online gameplay. Black Dawn includes co-op gameplay with up to 4 players. Here, you can play through the game, completing missions, earning experience, gold, mythril, weapons and everything else you can get in the single player campaign, but while playing with others. Right now, there is only co-op gameplay, but in the future Freyr plans to include PvP gameplay with character decoration.
If you’re not too keen on FPS games because of the iOS’s touch screen, I don’t blame you. I’ve got a hard time getting into FPS titles myself. But Black Dawn has done a great job of making the game comfortable to both veterans and new-comers alike. There’s an auto-lock option, making gaming a lot easier, but also not allowing for many headshots. For those of you who are badass FPS gamers on the touch screen, this option can be turned off so that you can headshot to your hearts content. Movement is done by dragging anywhere on the left side of the screen, while looking around is controlled by the right. The shoot button is placed where most FPS titles have it by default.
Unfortunately, you’re unable to move any of the icons, and on the smaller iPhone/iPod screen, looking around and turning does block a bit of the screen because you’ll have to reach up and over the shot button. As with most FPS games, you can adjust your aim and look around while shooting by dragging your finger across the screen while pressing on the fire icon, but with so many console gamers coming to the iOS, and with games like NOVA and Modern Combat allowing for customizable control placement, it might be a little frustrating that it’s not included here. However, there are options in the settings menu for reversing the X and Y movement, and adjusting the sensitivity for looking around, which is a huge plus. On the iPad, the controls aren’t really an issue, as there’s enough room to the right and below the fire icon to drag around and look, so you won’t be reaching over or across anything on the bigger screen.
Objects like gold, ammo and health are picked up automatically by walking over them but picking up weapons and shields as well as opening chests is done by tapping on the screen when a pop-up appears. As for the weapons and shields, it’s pretty similar to Borderlands; the pop up shows the weapon or shield along with it’s stats and how much you can sell it for. Chests are opened by tapping the ‘Open Chest’ icon that pops up when you’re near them. These options for picking up items and opening chests, however, can be kind of finicky. You’ll have to stop moving and look at the object just right for the pop up to appear, which can be kind of frustrating at first, but once you get the hang of it, it goes pretty smoothly.
Black Dawn’s graphics look fairly similar to Borderlands, and you might even have a hard time distinguishing the two if you played BL on a lower end machine with all the special extra graphical effects turned off. But aside from that, the animations, character models, environments, and just about everything else is top notch and incredibly well designed. The layouts of the levels are also pretty impressive. While the first couple of areas aren’t too big, you’ll soon reach areas that are huge. Luckily, there’s different warp zones in each map, allowing you to enter the areas in different spots.
There are IAPs included in the game. But before you go getting all upset about it, here’s the scoop. Mythril is used to play the game’s mini-games of Roulette. Here, you can spend Mythril to take a spin and get a random weapon or shield. You can also convert Mythril to coins. There are no items in the shops that I’ve come across that are Mythril only purchases, everything can be bought with the gold that you’ll collect while killing enemies and completing missions. The only thing Mythril might really come in handy for is for resetting all of your skill points, which will cost you 100 Mythril. Fortunately, if you buy the game, you’re given 100 Mythril for being an ‘early adopter’. You can also earn 140 Mythril for downloading Freyr’s previous games, Star Warfare: Alien Invasion and Amazing Runner, which are both FREE. On top of that, you’re able to watch video ads and check out TapJoy offers for more free Mythril, so there’s no real push towards dumping more cash into the game. Black Dawn is incredibly well balanced, and the only reason I could see to drop a couple bucks on more Mythril is to help support the developers.
There are some things that will remain frustrating unless they’re fixed. Right now, it’s kind of hard to select “Mission” “Shop” or “Talk” after tapping on a character. Half of the time if you don’t tap at exactly the right spot, you’ll just exit the menu and have to tap on the character to enter it again. There’s also only 10 slots in your inventory, which means that if you like having options when in battle, like carrying around an SMG, Sniper Riffle and then having a Revolver, Pistol and Shotgun handy, you’re left with 7 inventory slots, and that doesn’t allow for many items to be taken with you when you exit the area. There’s also no option to increase your inventory slots, so inventory management is something that you’ll be doing consistently. While this may not bother some gamers, it will weigh heavily on others, and having the option to buy more inventory slots would be a great addition for the future. There are also some grammatical errors in the dialogue. Though it’s nothing that will make understanding what’s being said impossible, it is very noticeable.
But all-n-all, Star Warfare: Black Dawn is a spot on Borderlands clone that’s well worth the $2.99 purchase and then some, even with the included IAPs. This is what the official Borderlands iOS game should have been but wasn’t. Even if you’re not a fan of Borderlands, Black Dawn offers up some very nice co-op gameplay which is only going to get better, and a huge open world environment to roam around in. I’m actually a little shocked that this launched for $3 when it could have easily came out the gate matching Modern Combat’s price point of $6.99, and still been well worth the purchase. Not only that, but the amazing support that Freyr Games gave to the first Star Warfare based on players feedback gives us loads of confidence that Black Dawn will only get better and smoother. Along with that, it's Universal and supports the iPhone/iPod 5's widescreen. Right now, this is TAS’s favorite FPS title on the iOS, and is a very easy recommendation.
Sunday, March 17, 2013
Sunday, March 17, 2013 Syntheticvoid No comments
It’s pretty surprising that in a store filled with freemium/paidmium IAP pushing games, there’s still a few developers out there that are willing to release games without any in-app-purchases at all. Unfortunately, a lot of these games go pretty much un-noticed, and it really is a shame, especially with so many gamers clamoring for IAP free titles. Well, the most recent ZERO IAP title to hit our devices here at The App Shack? Nameless: The Hackers, developed by BoxCat. Not only is it completely devoid of IAPs, it’s also an incredibly well made game. I was a little skeptical at first, judging by the screenshots, it didn’t look as though the game had what it needed to grab my attention, but after about 5 minutes with the game, it was clear that this was something special, and definitely deserving of every bit of attention and support it could get.
Nameless: The Hackers is an RPG that focuses on a group of 2 hackers who have been contracted to help find a missing programmer. As you progress through the game, 2 more members will join your squad, and you’ll start to unravel a conspiracy of mass proportions and wind up on a list you definitely don’t want to be on. While you’re following along the main story, you’ll be able to help out people around the globe by carrying out side-quests as well as take down some pretty formidable opponents. While you’re taking out other hacking groups and completing side-quests, you’ll be earning the game’s dual currencies; ByteCredits and Research Points. ByteCredits are used to purchase just about everything in the game from new skills to HP upgrades, Boosters (Defense, Attack, HP, Energy; up by 10% for 15 minutes) and Items (HP refills, energy refills, virus cleaners, ect), while Research Points are used primarily for upgrading (researching) skills.
Starting off, you’ll just have a couple of basic hacking skills. But fairly quickly, you’ll be given access to the Mt. Fox store where more skills will become available once you hit certain points in the story. Not only will you be able to purchase skills, but you’ll also be able to upgrade them. Upgrades unlock as you collect cards. Cards are collected by taking out various groups of hackers across the world, and by completing certain tasks. A very cool aspect of the cards is that they’re randomly generated. While the type of cards that you get may be pre-destined, the stats that accompany these cards are all left up to luck.
Each card has 4 segments attached, get a card with 1 segment unlocked, and the card will be a 25% card, 2 segments, 50%, ect. With each percentage increase, the stats that are locked to the card will increase. For instance, a 25% card might tack on 2 to your attack strength, while a 50% card could increase your attack by or 5. Not only are there random card generations, but there’s also different rarities of cards. A rare 25% card could very well be more powerful than a 50% or even 75% card.
On top of all this, you’re also able to re-roll cards. In the menu, you can view the cards that you’ve unlocked so far. From this menu, you can select to re-roll cards for a cost. Even cooler? You can pay for a re-roll with either of the two currencies, though re-rolling with Research Points instead of ByteCredits will give you a slightly better chance of rolling a better card.
As far as the user interface goes; everything can be done while using one hand/finger. Taps to execute moves and navigate the game while swiping to move about the world and select targets has been set up perfectly. The menus are very well designed and uncluttered, while everything else is simple to navigate and very responsive. To access your inventory, you simply tap on your health/energy numbers that are next to the character icons. To access your characters skills, you tap on the character. Underneath the character icons is the menu where you can quickly access the Mt. Fox shop, your inventory, view your collected cards or enter the options menu where you can save your game and adjust the music and sound effects (separately).
If you ever get stuck, or need a refresher, there is a help/tutorial section in the Mt. Fox shop area. However, with everything being shown to you in a very simple and straightforward manor at the beginning of the game, chances are you won’t need to use this help section. But it is there, and easy to access, if you ever need it. Unfortunately, right now the game is only designed for the iPhone/iPod, and you’ll have to play in 2X mode on the iPad. Luckily, it doesn’t look too pixilated on the bigger screen, and fans of the RPG genre (as much as it sucks) should be use to playing games in 2X mode, considering most RPGs in the AppStore are designed for the iPhone and not made Universal. Nameless: The Hackers is, however, supported by the iPhone/iPod 5’s widescreen, and it looks fantastic on the smaller screen.
The only negative thing I can say about Nameless is that the choices that you make don’t really effect the outcome of the game. There are some multiple choice decisions thrown into the mix, but the only thing they really effect is whether or not you get a couple of items or a few bonus ByteCredits. It would have been amazing if the developers threw in multiple story arcs depending on choices that you made. But with basically no RPGs featuring mechanics like this, it’s hard to hold this against BoxCat, especially with the amount of polish and how well Nameless plays, and even how great the story is minus decision based effects.
With an incredibly supportive development team, great artwork and animations, a well thought out and engaging story and surprisingly deep customization systems, Nameless: The Hackers is a steal at it’s current price of $1.99. It is on sale for launch, and the price will rise to $3.99 soon, which does feel like a very appropriate price for a game of this caliber. BoxCat has done an outstanding job creating a fresh and original RPG for the iOS, and better yet, even with the dual-currencies, there are NO IAPs! It’s hard not to get excited about that these days. I’m hoping that Nameless sells well and that we can see more games from BoxCat. As their first outing, they’ve definitely hit the ball out of the park and are a dev team that I will be keeping a very close eye on in the future.
Thursday, March 14, 2013
Thursday, March 14, 2013 Syntheticvoid No comments
One of our favorite iOS developers, Grumpyface Studios (Wispin, Bring Me Sandwiches!, Super Mole Escape) has just let their incredibly fun beat-em-up Mutant Fridge Mayhem go free for a limited time! With only a handful of beat-em-ups on the AppStore, whenever one comes along, we always jump on it. But most, if not all of them left us wanting more. That is, until we got our grubby little hands on this. There's not one negative thing that we can say about it, except that maybe it's a bit too short (even with the Endless Levels, WE WANT MORE!!). So if you don't have it yet, definitely check it out!
Friday, March 8, 2013
Friday, March 08, 2013 Syntheticvoid No comments
There's very few games that have been transferred over to my iPhone 5 that have not been updated to fit the 4'' screen. However, there are some games that are just so freak'n good that half-inch be damned, they're still worth having, even in their 3.5'' states. OrangePixel's games definitely fall into this category... and just about one year ago we happened to review their first SHMUP title; Neoteria. Even though we didn't find it as great as their trademark platformers, we still found Neoteria to be a blast, and gave it a solid 4 out of 5 stars. Now, it's today's Review Rewind, and if you're a SHMUP fan who doesn't own this one yet, you should... even if you only have a new 4'' device.
**NOTE** This review was written after playing Version 1.0.0
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.