Anyone who’s ever been on a rollercoaster should know what this week’s batch of games felt like. There were lots of unexpected dips, turns, flips, and complete flops. Even some motion-sickness. Seriously, that’s not a joke. One of these games made me feel sick. Still, like any good theme park attraction, there’s always at least one thing that made the experience worthwhile. Or in this case, a couple of things. Wanna know what those things are? Well then read on. And no skipping ahead to the end. That’s cheating.
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(Developer: Angry Newton – 80 points)
Reach the end (and the lovely lady) of the neon-soaked level while gathering gems and avoiding death. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Gravity.
What makes the game a bit more than a mere maze-navigating affair is the idea of gravity adjustment. Players don’t actually move the character at all, instead using the face buttons, digital pad or analog stick to shift the level’s gravity between Up, Down, Left and Right. It’s important to remember that the gravity changes don’t affect momentum, so without a delicate touch the little blue smiley could easily end up skewered on any number of a stage’s hazards. Each level has three different ratings to earn: time taken, number of deaths, and gems collected. It’s one of those things that’s meant to keep completionists coming back for more, again and again, and I’m sure it will, to great effect.
The “looseness” of the gravity takes a little getting used to, but after a minute or two, players will be zipping all over the place, grabbing loot and laughing in the face of danger. Or misjudging a turn and dying horribly. Either way, they’re bound to have some fun.
(Developer: Namic Games – 80 points)
Horrific-looking mascot aside, Speed 7 is actually a pretty fun card game. It’s all about numbers, colors, and speed. Obviously. The idea is to be the player who uses up all of their cards first, and the way to do that is to play them on either of the two piles in the middle of the screen.
Number cards must be played either sequentially or on a matching color, so a green 4 can be played on a 3, 5 or numberless green. Numberless cards can only be played on the same color, so a blue card could only be played on another blue or a blue with a number on it. And wild cards do exactly what they always do in any card game, ever. It’s fairly simple once, you get the hang of it.
The only real problem with Speed 7, aside from the rather off-putting AI portraits and somewhat prejudiced portrayal of Billy Bob, is the interface. The selection box for the cards is kind of hard to see at a glance, which can be a problem during heated matches where more time is spent watching the two draw piles. Also, the analog stick sometimes over or under-shoots the intended target. Something that could probably be avoided if the digital pad were usable, but it’s not for some reason. Still, Speed 7 is a simple, fun card game.
(Developer: Wardell – 80 points)
As a learning tool, which is what it is, Apple Orchard Math is capable. It’s not going to appeal to anyone without kids who need to learn math “the fun way,” but it does what it does fairly well. I say fairly because, while it’s good at presenting addition, subtraction, multiplication and division in a manner that should make learning painless, it lacks any real presentation. The visuals are bare-bones, there aren’t really any sound effects, and there’s zero music. It’s about as fancy as playing with a pack of flash cards.
(Developer: VG Porcinity – 80 points)
PaperCraft is not the kind of game you’d initially expect given the title. Let’s face it, anything with a “-craft” at the end of it automatically conjures images of orc peons, Zerg rushes, or half-naked purple elves dancing. This game contains none of those things. It’s actually a top-down shooter involving paper aircraft. If you want to know our thoughts, be sure to check out the full review.
(Developer: Kindling – 80 points)
Apparently the real secret behind the continued existence of flowers is porcine aeronautics. Who knew?
The goal of bumblepig is to earn cash by sexing-up lots of flowers. Seriously. The little guy flies along, automatically grabbing pollen from willing participants, then shaking the pollen onto waiting flora with the press of a trigger. He can hold two bits of pollen at a time, one on each leg, but it’s also possible to shake one off and grab a new one, should the need arise.
Flowers and pollen come in primary colors (red, yellow, and blue), but can be cross-pollinated to create secondaries. Not only does this look pretty, but it also allows for longer color streaks (from consecutive like-colored pollinations), which will earn more cash. As far as I can tell, cash is really only good for buying new hats to put on the pig, but it’s nice to have that little something extra to keep players playing. Assuming the simple, yet surprisingly entertaining gameplay; multiple levels (both quick-moving day and slower, but hazard-filled night variations); and cute, but polished visuals aren’t enough.
(Developer: WINGLAY – 240 points)
There’s something to be said for trying something different. And Sky Ninja War is certainly that. It may not look it, but it’s actually a side-scrolling shooter. Players control a cute little flying ninja as he cuts a swath through hordes of enemies for… some reason. I don’t read Japanese, so even if there is an explanation, I wouldn’t be able to figure it out.
The thing that makes Sky Ninja War so interesting is the way it handles the classic formula. There don’t appear to be any power-ups or extra lives, and the little ninja guy only has two different attacks: throwing ninja stars and slashing with his sword. The sword is the big thing here. It can be used to one-shot any non-boss enemy at close range, but it can also be used to stop enemy projectiles. It’s a simple idea, but it adds a pretty significant spin on the genre. Being able to turn and face the opposite direction (to take out missed baddies or attack from an undefended spot) also helps.
It’s cute, it’s surprisingly nuanced and it’s cute. Sure, it feels like there’s a very slight delay when pressing the buttons, but it’s nothing game-breaking. Try it; you might like it.
(Developer: Craig Brown – 80 points)
Nucleon is an odd little concept: protect the nucleus in the middle of the atom against invading radioactive particles, ones that bear a striking resemblance to space ships, through the use of chain lightning. Points are earned through the usual means, with combos scoring higher and earning increased protection for the nucleus. Destruction will also fill up a special meter, allowing you to unleash a screen-clearing attack when fully charged.
However, it can somewhat difficult to chain together large combos because the invading particles have to be rather close together for the lightning to jump from one to the other. The game does occasionally send well-positioned waves out that can be decimated with a properly-timed press of the A button, but more often than not it feels more like luck when you manage to take a lot of those suckers down at once. Still, Nucleon is certainly not a bad game for those who like to spend their free time protecting stationary targets.
(Developer: RandaSlayer – 240 points)
The Bomber is a fairly inaccurate title. Players don’t control a bomber, nor do they bomb anything. Instead, they shoot balloons. With a tank.
That’s not to say that it’s a waste of time. There’s actually a lot of skill and timing involved, even in the earlier stages. Shooting down balloons is only half the job; crates carried by said balloons also have to be recovered. And should you shoot the crates, rather than the floating orbs they’re tethered to, both get destroyed. That in itself doesn’t seem so tough, but each level has a finite amount of available ammo. If you run out, you’re screwed. The only way to get more is to shoot down ammo crates, but the same rules of careful aim apply. Later levels get even more complicated by increasing the amount of money required to win and throwing in moving balloons.
It’s not an easy game, and it doesn’t waste any time in getting to the tough stuff, but The Bomber will be good for those looking for a challenge.
(Developer: XamLance Studios – 80 points)
Minesweeper is a classic. It’s so classic that it’s recognized by the spell-check on my computer. It’s a simple idea involving numerical problem solving, so there’s not much one could to do screw it up. Some do, of course, but most can create a decent or even unique version of the game successfully. BombLocker is one such success.
It’s the exact same concept of using numbers to figure out where the explosives are hidden, marking the supposed bombs and opening up the safe areas. The main difference here is that it takes place on a hex-grid, so each tile has five possible neighbors. It doesn’t really change the game, but it at least mixes it up a bit. What changes things a bit more is the inclusion of hints that can be purchased with money earned through successful consecutive tile-clearings. These hints aren’t necessary, so purists can rest easy, but they can certainly help out newcomers. Any fans of Minesweeper will enjoy BombLocker. Obviously.
(Developer: Hdmann – 80 points)
Make no mistake, Octave Bar Clock is still a pointless app, but it’s a pointless app that at least tries to be different.
It’s a clock. You can set an alarm and tweak a few values, such as screen dimming and small movements to prevent burn-in, but that’s about it. It’s interesting how the date and time are displayed with horizontal bars, and I somewhat like the subtle tones associated with the different bars (i.e. the steady beep for the seconds), but since it all moves in real time it all starts to get boring very quickly. It’s a nifty idea, though.
(Developer: Zombie Bonsai – 80 points)
Hedge Wizard is an interesting little puzzle game with a cute look and a twisted sense of humor. Not a bad combination. The idea is to control a little peasant as they make their way through the level to grab some gold and bring it to the wizard’s tower. In exchange for the wizard’s protection, of course.
Initially this just means navigating the level, grabbing the loot, and hoofing it to the tower, but as things progress it becomes necessary to use spells that will alter the terrain or even time itself. The time-altering magic is really more of an “undo” command, but all the other spells have their uses. Floods can douse forest fires or fill riverbeds faster in order to prevent the spread of flames, earthquakes can remove obstacles such as mountains and so on.
Moving the targeting wand for spells while also controlling the peasant can be a little tricky at times, but the option to go back in time offsets any screw-ups quite nicely. Overall, I’d say Hedge Wizard is a perfectly reasonable and entertaining way to spend your free time.
(Developer: Fun Factory Entertainment – 80 points)
“Holy crap, this game takes itself way too seriously.” That’s what my wife had to say as soon as I started playing Dragon Forge. She’s not wrong, either. It seems to try a little too hard to be “compelling” or “interesting” right from the start with epic fantasy-sounding music, that slowly scrolling map of the land we see in virtually everything nowadays, and a somber voice dictating mission objectives on the map screen. Don’t get me wrong, it’s got some of the most impressive production values I’ve seen in a Live Indie to date, but it just seems like they took it a little too far.
The game itself is a little less showy. Players control a dragon and undertake different missions in the war against the humans, mostly involving slaughter and wanton destruction. The controls work alright, but the inability to move backwards it a little strange. Stranger still is the concept of allowing players to swap the Y axis not through an option menu, but with X. Still, it’s a functional shooter and the key character (the dragon) looks fantastic. The screen blurring makes it somewhat difficult to play for extended periods, though.
(Developer: SCFWorks – 240 points)
I like the occasional shoot-em-up. Really. But maybe that’s part of the problem. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the more polished offerings out there. Or it could have something to do with my only playing them on occasion, rather than all the time. No matter the reason, Call of the Underworld just doesn’t sit well with me.
Part of it is because I’ve never been a fan of the “flying people” school of shmup thought. It always seemed awkward and weird to me. But that’s purely aesthetic, so unless you’re a stickler like I am, it probably won’t bother you. What may bother you, however, is the total lack of analog support. Not only is the default control scheme mapped to the digital pad, it simply doesn’t register the little nuances of analog movement. Essentially, this means there’s a noticeable lack of control when compared to other modern SHMUPS, and that inability to make minute adjustments to a character’s position will lead to lots of deaths and frustration.
I want to be clear: if it weren’t for the control issues Call of the Underworld would not have a Poop Stamp. So if at some point down the line SCFWorks adds analog support, you can probably ignore it. However, it currently feels far too unresponsive for a game that belongs to a genre that’s all about responsiveness. It’s a shame really, but hopefully it won’t remain an issue for long.
(Developer: Divider1109jp – 80 points)
I literally facepalmed once the demo level for Rushing Punch was over. The thing is, I was rather optimistic going into it. It looked ugly as sin and featured crappy music and sounds, but I imagined I’d be totally blown away by an unattractive, but supremely fun beat-em-up. I was wrong. Oh so wrong.
If you want to know what’s wrong with Rushing Punch, just think of “everything,” then go down the list from there. The presentation is horrible, as I’ve mentioned, but the game doesn’t fare any better. The controls are almost as stiff as the bizarre virtual action figures you’re fighting, which says a lot, because I’ve seen more flexible characters in a game of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots. If the first level is any indication, the other five will involve moving straight down a linear path, awkwardly beating up crowds of department store mannequins, then getting to the end of the stage and realizing it won’t end until everyone is dead. You can’t even jump off the edge into oblivion to end the pain. Oh, but at least the environments have different textures.
No really, pass.
(Developer: Angel Z – 80 points)
There really isn’t much to say about Hangman 360. If you like Hangman, chances are you’ll like this, too. It has lots of available categories, different backgrounds that can be selected for no particular reason beyond personal preference, and seems like it can offer word-guessing fans plenty to do.
Yeah. That’s pretty much it. It’s Hangman, with a lot of puzzles.
鉄きょんガール(Iron Gal Kyon)
(Developer: Pink Hurricane – 80 points)
Whatever this thing is, it’s broken. It’s essentially similar to PopCap’s own Zuma, where colored objects (enemies in this case) spiral in along a set path and the idea is to clear them out before they reach their target. Clearing them out simply involves matching three or more of the same color. In a game like Zuma, it can be fun. This, however, is arduous and annoying.
The character doesn’t have like-colored object they hurl into the group, but instead hammers away at the oncoming horde with a mace that will change their color. Aside from the irritation of having to wait for the mace to come back after it’s thrown, and the way that the enemies tend to overlap so that often times the intended target will get blocked by an imperceptible fraction of an adjacent buddy, the implementation just doesn’t work. Sometimes they’ll change to the color you want them to after a few strikes, other times they won’t change at all. And there’s no indication whatsoever as to why this happens. FYI, the ones in the screen shot with hardhats are not the ones I’m talking about.
This one should be avoided.
(Developer: Jason Keiderling – 80 points)
Conquest is an alright control-point style game, but dear lord does it have one unbearable computer voice to go along with it. It’s this horrible, droning, digitized female voice that announces when outposts are captured and destroyed. It also covers the entire tutorial, which is why I went in to my first practice game blind and got reamed.
Once I was able to figure out what I was doing, it was alright, though. Capturing outposts and staying on their designated pads long enough will build turrets and produce AI tanks, but while all this is happening there’s an enemy player doing the same and attempting to destroy all your hard work. It’s a fairly unrefined balancing act that doesn’t really require skill so much as being close to health/missile power-ups and getting the drop on the other guy.
But you could do a lot worse as far as multiplayer indie games go.
(Developer: rmm5 – 80 points)
Everything about Avatar’s Rock Paper Scissors screams “lazy cash-in.” I’m not saying that’s actually the intention here, but it does give off that vibe.
The entire “game” seems like it uses recycled assets. I know I’ve heard that irritating music in at least one of those XBL indie quiz games. I’m fairly certain I’ve seen that dojo background before, too. And, of course, it uses the canned Avatar animations. Only now they’re sped up for some reason, which is weird. Not to mention the game itself is just Rock Paper Scissors, which doesn’t make for a compelling experience.
- bumblepig (80 points)
- Sky Ninja War (240 points)
- Call of the Underworld (240 points)
- Iron Gal Kyon (80 points)
- Avatar’s Rock Paper Scissors (80 points)