Friday, August 31, 2012
Friday, August 31, 2012 Syntheticvoid 1 comment
It’s a shame that, with the amount of games on the AppStore, there really are very few development companies that can continually surprise and impress gamers with their releases. Granted, this number is starting to grow, and the future does look incredibly bright for iOS gaming, but we all know that that really depends on the market, and who can stick to their guns, deciding to not start making freemium IAP monger type games that are taking over the charts. I’ve felt this way for a while, but this week was an incredible week for iOS gamers, and has put a lot of that oomph back into our hearts. Aside from the best Action RPG to hit the iDevice, an amazing Physics-Puzzler, an incredible, and unique firefighting game, we received one of the most innovative, original and pure Puzzlers as well; Cipher Prime Studio’s Splice: Tree Of Life. If you’re into Puzzlers, Cipher Prime is responsible for the awesome iPad titles Pulse: Volume One [$2.99], Fractal: Make Blooms Not War [$4.99] and the iPhone game, Auditorium [FREE], each of which receiving great reviews with all but Fractal earning multiple awards.
With all of that in mind, our hopes and excitement for Splice: Tree Of Life was incredibly high, and after playing through the first couple levels of the game, once I started to understand the mechanics, I was hooked. There is no tutorial in Splice. There is a ‘?’ that can be tapped at any time during gameplay, containing 3 screens of instructions, but chances are, you’ll still need to mess around throughout the first world before you really get a handle on everything that’s going on.
The goal of Splice is to align microbes in the outlined pattern in the given amount of moves. In order to do this, you’ll need to drag-n-drop the misaligned microbes, attaching them to the one center microbe. Once you pick up a microbe, light grey outlines appear in places where you can attach it. If you don’t place it in one of those outlines, the microbe will jump back to where it originally was before you picked it up.
There are some microbes that have white symbols on them. These microbes, and sometimes, microbes attached under them, can be mutated depending on what symbol they contain. Some have an arrow that’s split in half, these can be mutated to split into two separate microbes, side-by-side, mutating all microbes connected under them as well. Another type has a regular arrow, and these mutate into two microbes as well, however, these mutate by splitting down so that the second microbe is directly under the original one, and these do not effect any microbes attached under them. There is also an ‘X’ symbol, which destroys that microbe, as well as any microbes attached beneath it. Once you hit World 6, you’re able to let microbes float. Here, the grey outlines don’t really matter, as you can place microbes out on their own. You’ll also come across stages where you’ll need to pull microbes that are out on their own into the design.
There are 49 original stages spread out across 7 ‘Sequences’ in Splice: Tree Of Life, with each stage called a ‘strand’. Once you complete these 49 strands, you’ll unlock the Epilogue. Here, there are 4 more Sequences, each with 7 more strands, for a total of 28 additional levels. These Epilogue levels are incredibly challenging, with fairly large strands to solve, using all of the mechanics from the original levels. Adding to this great challenge are ‘Angelic’ solutions. Each stage, having a certain number of moves available to complete the strand, has a potential ‘perfect’ solution, requiring less moves than that that are given. All of the levels are challenging enough, not to mention the insane difficulty increase when you move on to the Epilogue levels, but solving each and every stage with the Angelic solution should prove to be a challenge that not everyone can undertake. However, if you do get stuck and would like to know how to solve a particular strand, Cipher Prime’s website has posted all of the solutions via YouTube.
Like Cipher Prime’s previous releases, the graphics and atmosphere in Splice are phenomenal. The animations and movement for each microbe blends together seamlessly with the other microbes, as well as the movement of your fingers on the screen. This, combined with the beautiful soundtrack make for an incredibly immersive puzzler. You can also listen to and download the soundtrack on Cipher Prime’s bandcamp page, or check it out below.
GameCenter is supported, and includes 18 achievements (2 of which are hidden), which will only be unlocked by the best players. Unfortunately, there are no leaderboards, so competing with friends to see who can solve an entire Sequence the fastest will have to be done manually.
Priced at $3.99, Splice: Tree Of Life, is a steal. Awarded as the Best Puzzle Game of 2011 via the Intel Level Up Contest, and including hours upon hours of gameplay and mind-wrecking puzzles, it’s easily one of the best puzzlers available on any gaming platform. If you’re looking for a new and unique game that will provide you with an insane challenge, look no further. Cipher Prime has done an incredible job with the creation of this title, and I feel lucky to be able to have a port of it available in the AppStore, for a fraction of the PC/Mac Version’s price. Splice is a wonderful experience that should not be missed.
Thursday, August 30, 2012
Thursday, August 30, 2012 Syntheticvoid No comments
You zombie fanatics out there probably already know this, but Telltale's The Walking Dead: The Game has just received Episode 2. That's right, it's not available for purchase via IAP for $4.99. Picking up 3 months after Episode 1 came to it's gripping conclusion, we'll now be able to see how the choices we made in Episode 1 are going to effect the rest of the game. If Telltale pulled this one off like we think they did, we're in for one hell of a gameplay experience throughout the rest of the episodes.
For those of you who haven't already, feel free to check out our review of Episode 1, and find out if this Point-n-Click Adventure title is up your ally. Even if you're not a big fan of P-n-C titles, you might want to think about getting this one. It's definitely not just your average adventure title, and Telltale Games has done an OUTSTANDING job creating an atmosphere and characters that fit with the tone and feeling of the comics by Robert Kirkman.
You can also check out the trailer below for some in-game footage to see how the gameplay works out on the touch-screen. If you've already got the PC/MAC version of the game, it's exactly the same, so, no surprises there. But it's great having this ported over to the iDevice. The touch-screen has always felt like a perfect fit for this genre of games, and The Walking Dead: The Game is a fantastic example of that. Once we finally have time to check out Episode 2, we'll make sure and give you some more detailed impressions.
**NOTE: For those of you waiting for our Walking Dead Episode 2 Review, we were just able to finally download the Episode this morning due to some server overloading issues with Telltale. We hope you understand, and we'll make sure and get this reviewed ASAP.
Thursday, August 30, 2012 Syntheticvoid 4 comments
Over the last year, we’ve seen quite a few ‘Pokemon’ like games hit the AppStore; Mighty Monsters, Pocket Summoner, Minimon, MinoMonsters and more, with even more slated for future release. MinoMonsters was a decent Pokemon-esque experience, but with some recent updates has pretty much gone down the drain, and no one else has really nailed the different aspects of gameplay. Well, NNT Resonant (Cats Away [$0.99], iGADGET [$2.99], Berzerk Ball [$0.99], GemCraft [$2.99] and Hex Empire [$0.99]) is now taking a crack at the genre with their new release, Dragon Island Blue.
Dragon Island Blue tells the story of a young boy who’s found a dragon egg, which, for a long time, were thought to be extinct. This starts your journey of collecting, battling, evolving, destroying and mixing over 200 different monsters. Starting off, you’re able to pick a element for your dragon; Earth, Wind, Fire or Water. Like NNT Resonant’s previous release, Cats Away, D.I.B. starts off pretty slowly, requiring quite a bit of ‘grinding’ before you actually get into the real meat of the game, but once you do make it through the slow beginning, the game starts to really shine, turning into one of the best Pokemon-type games available for the iOS.
When you start off, you’ll only have access to one area. This area contains a main village, a forest, planes, and a cave. Movement is done by tapping on selected areas of the map, with battles popping up randomly. Once you’re in a battle, you’ll have two different options for control. One, lets you select the attack you want to pull off, and then select which enemy you want to attack, while the other has you swipe over the enemy you want to attack in the direction of the arrow on each attack card.
Depending on which attack you use, you’ll be knocked back in the battle sequence. The battle sequence determines who attacks and when. If you use your regular attack, you’ll be given a lower number, and a higher number for a stronger attack. Each turn that’s made will decrease this number, and once it reaches zero, you’ll be able to attack again.
There is a bit of strategy within the battle system, given the battle sequence and various attacks that you can use. But also, when you’re thrown into battle, you’ll face an unknown number of opponents. This plays into how you’ll attack each of the enemies. Up to 3 enemies can be on the screen at once, but in the upper right corner is a number showing you how many back-up enemies will appear once you defeat the starting line-up. Not only do these mechanics play a part in the battles, but also which elements your creatures are. Each element has a strength and weekness; Fire beats Earth, Earth beats Wind, Wind beats Water, Water beats Fire. If you’re up against a bunch of Earth creatures, you’ll want to use your Fire creatures more often because even their regular attacks will be stronger that usual.
As you battle creatures, you’ll also be able to capture them. This is done by purchasing Bronze, Silver and Gold cards in the town’s shop. Each type of card has their own capture percentage when up against creatures, depending on how strong they are. Once you capture a creature, it’s automatically added to your line-up. As you level your main character up, you’ll be able to hold more and more creatures. However, only the creatures that you use while in battle get the experience gained for each fight, so switching out your creatures is something that you should do regularly, or else you’ll just wind up with 3 decently powered creatures, and the rest of them will be very week, pretty much not helping out your team at all.
If you don’t want to use a creature, once you get back into town, you can destroy that creature, and turn it into a soul stone, which you’re able to attach to another creature. This can be useful, especially if you’ve captured a very low-level creature, or just have duplicates.
When you level up your character, you’re given a stat point which you can assign to either the defense, attack, magic, resistance, speed or max HP of your creatures. You’re also able to increase the license of your character by battling it out in arenas across the land. After doing this, you’ll be able to attach gems to your character. These gems are available in the shop, or can be won in battle and increase your creatures stats as well. Each license that you earn will add one more slot for a gem. You’re also able to collect totems by completing certain battles. These totems assign a specific creature to your character, able to use a special ability while in battle once each time you leave a town.
In each town, there are quests you can accept, which reward you with gold and silver, as well as special creatures. Once the quests are explained they go into your quest log. In order to re-read them, all you need to do is tap on the quest again, and you'll get a full explanation. These quests range from killing or capturing a certain number of creatures to evolving your creatures or taking out a certain creature breeder who's been causing trouble for the town, and more. There's a very nice variety within the quests, keeping the gameplay interesting.
GameCenter is supported, with 3 leaderboards; Collection Percent, Hero Level and Infinite Dungeon, which scores how many levels you can make it through on the endless dungeon. There are also 24 achievements included, which will take some time to complete. Dragon Island Blue contains endless replayability, with the Infinite Dungeon, not to mention the countless hours you’ll be able to spend going through the actual story mode. There is a ton of content in the game, and is easily my favorite Pokemon type game in the AppStore. Right now, NNT is having a launch sale, pricing Dragon Island Blue at $0.99 for a limited time. Soon it’ll shoot up to $2.99. DIB is Unviersal, so no worries about playing in 2X mode on your iPad. If you’re a fan of Pokemon, Dragon Island Blue is a must own game. There’s plenty of depth as well as strategy, and once you get through all the beginning creatures, there are some pretty bad-ass ones you’ll want to try and collect over and over again until you can snag em, building up the best team of creatures that you can.
Thursday, August 30, 2012 Syntheticvoid 1 comment
If you're a fan of Turn-Based Strategy titles, chances are, you've played a couple Final Fantasy titles in your gaming career. If you've become a fan of these titles over the years, or have been since the beginning, seeing Square Enix take advantage of the AppStore and iOS devices, releasing multiple FF titles for the platform is something of a miracle. If you told me that FF Tactics, or even FF 1, 2, or 3 would be available on my phone by the time I was 30, I probably would have gone into shock.
However, with the current price points, relative to other titles in the AppStore Square Enix has shown us that is has some balls. This also most likely means that if you have any of these titles, you're either a hardcore Final Fantasy fan, a super hardcore RPG fan, or just have to have console ports on your iDevice. Not that there's anything wrong with any of that. I myself have every FF iOS title, along with other Square titles. But this time around, Final Fantasy Dimensions' release price is going to be set at $28.99, a hefty price, even for Square, especially considering Dimensions was originally a mobile release back in 2010, which also isn't necessarily a bad thing; look at Chaos Rings, a mobile only title. Though it does look like it was made with RPG Maker, along with sprites from FF IV, and a set-up like The After Years, which isn't too much of a surprise considering the team that made The After Years is the same team that made Dimensions.
Things are looking up, though, the game will initially be free, allowing players to go through the prologue before deciding if they want to pay for either single chapters, with the first chapter priced at $2.99, and chapters two through 4 priced at $9.99 each. The $28.99 price tag is reserved for the full game unlock, saving you a couple bucks.
There's also a fairly deep Job Ability System, as well as an Active Time Battle System, making it more reminiscent of console FF titles. If Square managed to pull this off just right, it could very well be worth the $30, and then some, though I don't expect many gamers will actually bite on the full game unlock. I guess we'll find out just how great this originally Japan-only mobile game really is once it hits the AppStore tonight.
Thursday, August 30, 2012 Syntheticvoid 2 comments
As I’ve said numerous times, I’m constantly being surprised with games that hit the AppStore, especially from first-time iOS developers. This time, it’s Rebel Twins that’s surprised me, with their first iOS release, Night Flight, a 2.5D Action-Arcade Flight game, telling the story of Teddy, a little stuffed bear trapped in a toy factory with nothing but a flimsy plane to help him escape.
Night Flight contains 32 levels spread across 4 worlds. Each of these stages has a possible 3 star ranking. You’re scored based on how many of the level’s stars you can collect, how quickly you can reach the exit, and the top speed your little plane reaches. However, collecting all of the stars, being quick and reaching a top speed is not required in order to 3 star a stage, though it does help. For each different aspect, you’re given a certain amount of points. For each 1,000 points, you’ve given a star, so if you score between 1,000 and 2,999, you’ll get 2 stars, and above 3,000 gives you 3 stars.
The stars that you’ll collect while making your way throughout the levels are drawn to your plane automatically, so you don’t need to run right into them. This magnetism is increased for a short time if you can pick up the magnet power-up. There are also rockets that propel you forward, time slowing items, shock-wave bombs and more, all aiding you in your escape. There are also quite a few hazards; rotating red bars that destroy your plane on impact, saw wielding mechanical enemies, heat seeking missiles and more will all try and stop you from making it to the end of the level.
In order to open the exit, you’ll need to pick up a remote, found somewhere in each stage, and more often than not, you’ll need to break open a force-field that’s protecting the remote. This, in-turn, activates the heat seeking missiles planted throughout the level, and if you take too much damage, your plane will explode. You’ll also be doing a lot of backtracking in order to make it back to the exit, which is usually found in the middle of the stage, with the remote on the opposite end of the entrance. This is made even more interesting by the addition of multiple layers of each stage. You’ll come across pipes that teleport you to another area, as well as sometimes moving you to a path beside your original path. This is one of the nicest features, as it really helps add to the level design.
The controls do take a little messing around with before you’ll feel comfortable with them. Touching on the left side rotates your plane counter-clockwise, while touching on the right side rotates it clockwise. These controls fit nicely on both the iPod/iPhone and the iPad, and does add a bit of challenge to the game. I will admit that I would love to have a virtual joystick for control, but once you complete the first couple of levels, the controls feel great, and become a perfect match for the gameplay.
The graphics are extremely well done, and the environments are very well designed. It feels like it’s in the same category as SilverTree’s Sleepy Jack and Cordy. The music also fits with the dreamy look and feel of the game, creating a great atmosphere for the entire game. There are some spots where the camera zooms out a bit, and this can make your character extremely small when playing the iPod/iPhone build of the game. However, you are able to see a lot more of the stage when this happens, and it always seems to happen at just the right time, so if you can handle controlling a small character, it shouldn’t be a problem at all, especially if you’re playing on the iPad.
GameCenter is supported, but unfortunately, there’s only one leaderboard, for your total game score. There are no achievements, no boards for quickest time, highest speed, or most stars collected, all of which would add even more to the replay value. If you’re not a big fan of score-chasing, once you’re able to collect 3 stars on each stage (which generally takes me between 2 and 6 playthroughs on each stage), you won’t have much to keep you coming back. However, priced at $0.99 for the SD build, and $1.99 for the HD build, and with the incredible production values, fantastic level design, and wonderful gameplay along with a great challenge, it’s very easy to recommend this first title from Rebel Twins.
Thursday, August 30, 2012 Syntheticvoid 1 comment
Lonely Few's first iOS release, Brainsss, has its fair share of issues when it was first released. We highlighted a couple of them in our review back in May; No zooming out and no specific grouping were among the biggest. However, the Lonely Few developers have been hard at work making Brainsss better since its initial release, and late last night, it hit the AppStore and we were able to check it out.
Take a look at this impressive list of new tweaks and features included in Version 1.5;
>20 Unlockable Heroes
>Unique action RTS gameplay
>2 game modes (Casual/Strategy)
>Multiple Zoom levels though simple pinch interface
>New iPad 3 retina GUI
>Left Handed support
>Top-down view mode available for the RTS players
>Group Save and Recall via the new Grouping toolbar
>Game Speed can be set to 3 settings (Slower, Normal and Faster)
>Improved and more responsive controls
>Optimized levels for dramatically faster loading
>Brainsss Bucks now appear as random drops from humans
>Extensive new help system
>20 Unlockable Comics
>Improved Zombie A.I.
>Crazy Golf Carts!!
Yup, every issue we had with the game, along with some we didn't, have been tweaked, improved or added, greatly increasing both the playability and entertainment. Lonely Few has done a fantastic job making Brainsss one of the best Casual RTS titles available in the AppStore. If you'd like to know more, you can check out our review (though, you might want to keep in mind that it was written before Version 1.5), and check out the new Version 1.5 Trailer that was just posted up on YouTube. If you're either a hardcore RTS fan, or just new to the genre, Brainsss is definitely a title worth checking out, and with this recent update, it looks like Lonely Few is definitely a development group worth supporting.
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Wednesday, August 29, 2012 Syntheticvoid 2 comments
It’s no secret that The App Shack hasn’t been around for too long. If you’ve been following us recently, you might have noticed that we’re reaching back, reviewing older games that gamers might have missed, or that we weren’t around to review, as well as our new Review Rewind section, re-posting reviews for games that are still on our devices one year later. Well, another fantastic title that we didn’t get around to is Mobigame’s Perfect Cell. After Mobigame released EDGE, they were definitely a development team that many gamers had their eyes on, and like EDGE, Perfect Cell was something that iOS gamers had yet to see, and still has yet to be expanded upon since. It’s an amazingly unique game, and one that all iOS gamers should check out.
Perfect Cell is a Stealth-based Action Adventure title with quite a few puzzle elements thrown in for good measure. Taking place in the near future (2029), a meteorite came crashing to earth. Inside of it, scientists found a living lifeform. Able to regenerate and split itself in the blink of an eye, this lifeform’s special skills quickly became a danger to humans. Now trapped within a secret underwater facility, you’ll need to find your way through corridors, get through a hi-tech security system, and take out guards in order to escape.
Throughout the 35 Story Mode levels, spread across 5 worlds, you’ll be graded on how long it takes you to complete each stage, as well as how many humans you take out on your way to the exit. The environments are beautifully crafted, and with the latest update, are now optimized for the new iPad Retina Display, which just makes them even more outstanding.
The controls are simple, and explained as you make your way through the first couple levels. To move the cell, you just need to tap and hold on the screen where you want it to move to. Simple enough, right? It can also dash, which is used to break through glass, and take out the humans. This can be done either by swiping or double tapping in the direction you want to dash. There will also be parts of the game where you’ll need to split the cell in two, either to complete a puzzle, or to draw the attention of the guards so that you can sneak up behind them. This is done by touching two fingers on the cell, and spreading them apart. You’re able to split the cell into three pieces, each able to maneuver on their own via the regular movement controls. Another special ability the cell can perform is to disappear. Going invisible is done automatically by not touching the screen, and just letting your cell sit in one spot for a short period of time. The last move you’ll utilize throughout the game is a special drawn out attack. This is done by tapping on the cell and holding down for a second, and then dragging a line along a path that you want to quickly move through. Doing this, you’re able to blast through glass, and cut humans in half, as well as make it through some of the quicker environmental hazards you’ll wind up encountering.
Perfect Cell’s BGM and sound effects are top notch, adding to the atmosphere and feeling of the game, helping to draw you into the world. The graphics, as already stated, are fantastic, and on retina enabled devices, really pop. The human character models, however, are kind of pixilated, and with the rest of the graphics being smooth, this really stands out.
GameCenter support adds a bit of replay value to the game, with 2 leaderboards, one for ‘Time To Escape’ and another for your ‘Best Total Time’. 16 Achievements are included as well, but there aren’t many that will have you going back and replaying levels, as they can pretty much all be completed your first time through the game.
There are very few games in the AppStore that I believe screen shots do not do justice. Perfect Cell is one of them. The amazing Stealth/Infiltration based gameplay is full of action, and the puzzles are blended in seamlessly throughout the stages. Perfect Cell does have it’s flaws, but priced at $2.99 and being Universal, it’s definitely a game you won’t want to miss out on, and will not regret purchasing. Even after 2 years, it still holds up as being one of the most unique games you can have on your iDevice. The only thing I wish it had was a Challenge Mode, with separate leaderboards for each stage. Something like this, with time challenges, score challenges and more would add an incredible amount of replay value, as well as round the game out, making it feel complete. Right now, there is a bit of replay value, with the time limits, human deaths, and leaderboards on GC, but it still feels like it hasn’t reached it’s full potential. Being 2 years old, I doubt we’ll see anything new be added to the game, but it’s always nice to dream, right? Maybe we’ll see more if a Perfect Cell 2 ever hit’s the virtual shelves.
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 Syntheticvoid No comments
Action RPG's can be found all over the AppStore. For a while, it seemed like they were out-releasing physics puzzlers. But now that the insane amount of releases has dropped off, seeing only a couple a month these days, a lot of gamers are back to anticipating the next release for the genre.
For those of you who missed out on this one the first time around, or didn't have a chance to catch it on one of it's numerous sales since it's release, FDG's fantastic Zelda-esque Adventure title, Across Age, has just been dropped from $5, down to $1! Across Age is easily one of my favorite Action RPG titles available for the iDevice, and one of very few that I've actually played through from beginning to end more than once.
All 3 versions of the game are available; Across Age, Across Age DX and Across Age HD. The original Across Age is built specifically for the iPod Touch and iPhone, while the DX build is also for the iPod Touch and iPhone, but includes 'Pixel Perfect HD Graphics', being the first JRPG that supported iPhone 4 Retina support. There are also more dungeons, more bosses, more gameplay, an improved battle system and HD cut-scenes. The HD build is exactly like the DX version, but is the only version built for the iPad.
The game contains about 15 hours of gameplay, a great plot, some fairly difficult puzzles and 2 characters which you can switch between while playing, which helps out while in battle, as well as when trying to figure out the game's multiple puzzles. If you're a fan of the genre, and don't have Across Age yet, it's definitely a title you NEED to pick up. If you're not really a fan of Action RPGs, Across Age is still a title you should check out, as it's one of the top Action RPGs available in the AppStore, and now, priced at $0.99, it's the perfect time to check it out. If you want to know more, feel free to watch the trailers below!