Is there a Pokemon that’s happier to try to defeat you than Wailmer? I don’t think so!
I’ve been playing Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp recently. Is it time for a new hat, or can I wear my Happy New Year hat for a little longer? I realize I haven’t blogged here much in a while, and part of that is because I think I need to say something specific. Should I explain what Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is and review it before I start to write about it? No, I don’t want to do that. I just want to talk about the game. But if you want to add me as a friend, my ID is 2604 7697 654!
Also, this amuses me. These are my only two friends in the game that I actually know, and for a moment I wondered how my friend could be in two spots at the same time. It took me a second to realize that they just dressed similarly today. That’s gem on the left and Anela on the right. Nice fashion!
Lifeline is a piece of interactive fiction released on iPhone and Apple Watch recently by 3 Minute Games. It’s told entirely through incoming text messages from Taylor, an astronaut who crashes on a far away moon. You shape Taylor’s survival by choosing one of two replies whenever he or she (the game doesn’t specify) asks you a question. It tells a intriguing story through a very interesting method.
Sometimes Taylor just wants to chat, but other times Taylor asks something more important. Once I was asked if a certain amount of radiation was safe. Taylor asked me to look it up. I did, and I gave my answer, helping Taylor to survive that night. Other times the choices are less significant. Taylor nervously jokes like a real person might, even acknowledging the absurdity, and sometimes just asks which way you think he or she should walk.
It takes Taylor real time to do things too, which helps makes the game feel like Taylor’s someone with whom you’re actually communicating. If Taylor says it’ll take an hour to walk somewhere, you’ll have to wait an hour to hear what happens. This isn’t like those terrible Facebook games that make you pay to boost through an artificial delay; these delays add to the story. In addition, there’s no in-app purchases, DLC, ads, or anything else unsavory. You simply buy the game for $2.99 and enjoy it.
In addition to touching a notification to jump into the game, you can also choose a reply directly from the notifications and even from the lock screen. This isn’t always perfect, because if you missed a lot of messages from Taylor, only the most recent handful will be displayed. Your choices can sometimes be cut off too, but it’s still pretty neat to be able to do that. You can start there and if you need to click through, click through.
As a fan of both interaction fiction and sci-fi, this was pretty perfect for me. The story was more interesting than I expected as well. It was $2.99 well spent.
This piece was originally published as a review on Game Boyz on 8/7/2011.
Groove Coaster was released on the iOS last week, and I’ve had trouble staying away with it. Following in the footsteps of Space Invaders Infinity Gene, Groove Coaster is Taito’s newest offering. At only $2.99 it delivers a fantastic music experience that I highly recommend.
In Groove Coaster, your avatar follows along a set line. Icons on the line set to the music indicate when you should tap the screen. As the game progresses, the complexity increases as well. Besides regular tap notes, Groove Coaster introduces holds, sliding holds, flicks, and more. The game gets especially crazy and fun when a fast song is playing and the line begins to plummet into the screen, forcing you to pay attention to the music since the graphics are too simple to indicate depth. Interestingly, Groove Coaster also features notes called ad-libs. The game doesn’t penalize you for tapping if there’s no note near. Because of this, you’re free to tap along to the music even if there’s no icon. While doing this you can sometimes find hidden ad-lib notes! This system rewards paying attention to the music rather than just the screen.
The simplistic graphics suit the game quite well. Groove Coaster features the same style as earlier iOS game, Space Invaders Infinity Gene (another awesome iOS game). Throughout the game, you can unlock additional skins to change the appearance, keeping the graphics simple but giving it a bit of flavor. The whole game has that HD retro look, even though it’s not a remake. It is, however, absolutely gorgeous. The music is exactly what you’d expect as well – electronic, techno, with a bit of pop and hip-hop. It’s the perfect blend. The soundtrack, by Taito houseband Zuntata, is available on iTunes already.
A variety of tracks are available in Groove Coaster, each with three difficulties. The game also features leaderboards and achievements. Additional avatars, skins, and items are available as DLC, but these seem overpriced to me. While another song for $0.99 isn’t terrible, items that provide a benefit for a single track just don’t seem worth it.
The game is short and not very challenging, but I definitely don’t mean that as a negative. Taito doesn’t seem to be setting out to create a challenge or long game. Groove Coaster is a wonderful music experience. It’s definitely one of the “must plays” of the iOS, and at only $2.99 on the App Store, you should go grab it right now!
This piece was originally published as a review on Game Boyz on 2/13/15. Each Game Boyz review is structured with sections for introduction, graphics, sound, gameplay, and conclusions.
Peggle Blast for iOS is the latest game in the Peggle series by Popcap, now owned by EA. Peggle was a minor addition to the Orange Box that ended up being a pretty big deal to me. The mechanics were simple, but it was so addicting and fun! I went on to play Peggle DS, which contained Peggle and Peggle Nights. There was even an addon to play Peggle within World of Warcraft. I skipped Peggle 2 because it wasn’t released on mobile platforms, but I was ready for more. I purchased the iOS port of the original Peggle as soon as it was released. I paid a flat price, and I received a game that I could play. It was a good deal. Peggle Blast, on the other hand, is completely free! Good deal? No, pretty bad deal actually. While I’d be more than happy to pay for a new Peggle, Peggle Blast does the typical microtransaction mechanics of having time-locked aspects that can be unlocked immediately for real money. You can buy power-ups for real money too, and it certainly feels like the game pushes you to use them. But I’ll get into that shortly.
Graphics and Sound
The graphics and sound haven’t really been improved in Peggle Blast, but the series didn’t need improvement in this regard. Colors are bright, the Peggle Masters are cartoony, and the music supports the graphic style in its cheery way. It’s just fine in presentation.
Let’s start with the good, shall we? At it’s core, the gameplay is much the same as previous Peggle incarnations, and that’s a good thing. Line up shots, watch the ball bounce around pachinko-style, and use power-ups. Not everything is the same old same old though.
There are some new mechanics that are quite fun and add some new, interesting challenges to the game. One I particularly like is sludge-covered pegs. These halt the ball’s momentum. That can be bad if you don’t want your ball to stop, but it can also be used to control your shots. Another feature are eggs; some levels task you with breaking eggs open by hitting them multiple times. If the egg falls off the bottom of the screen before you break it open, you lose, but if it falls into the bucket, it’s saved. There are also levels in which you need to collect gems. These objectives add new life to the series. They’re a welcome addition and quite fun.
Unfortunately, everything’s not great with the new Peggle. First, there are now lives, and I don’t mean the multiple balls you get per level. Each time you lose a level, you lose a life. Lives recharge, but if you run out of them, you can’t play until at least one recharges – or you purchase more. This can be pretty annoying, because it means that while I might be in the mood to play more Peggle Blast, I have to wait. On the other hand, I’m the type of person that always has a lot to do. I don’t really find myself bored, so it’s pretty easy for me to switch to another task.
Sadly, it gets worse. You have to wait for lives to charge, but you also have to wait hours to unlock a world after you complete the levels leading up to it. At least with lives you’re forced to wait only when you run out of lives by losing. By gating additional levels behind a time delay, Peggle Blast is punishing the player for completing levels. Again, you can pay money to skip the wait.
Peggle Blast prompts you to spam your friends too, but I avoided that. There’s still one more problem though. You can purchase power-ups. Anyone familiar with the phrase “pay to win” probably understands the problem here. Peggle Blast is designed with being able to purchase power-ups in mind. The levels get insanely hard, and the difficulty in many later levels depend more on chance than skill. Peggle Blast is significantly more difficult than previous iterations of Peggle, and I have a feeling it’s because EA wants us spending money to overcome those challenges. One new mechanic I didn’t mention earlier were bombs. They need to be hit in a certain number of turns or the explode, causing you to lose unless you purchase additional time. And how about boss battles, in which you must score more points than the Peggle Master competing against you? It doesn’t sound too bad except for the fact that they’re basically multiple stages in one. If you lose on the final stage, you’ve lost the whole level and have to start again (or you have to pay for additional balls).
I was willing to watch video advertisements for power-ups, but I refused to spend any money on the game. That’s unfortunate for EA, because if the game didn’t have any pay to win features but simply had a static cost, I would have gladly purchased it. Yes, I had to let my lives recharge, and yes, I had to stop playing for hours (eight, I believe) each time I got to a new world. Some levels I played over and over, waiting for the lucky shot that would let me win. It took me a long time and many attempts, but I finally beat the last level. Well, let me save you some trouble: you don’t get anything for beating the game. I don’t mean no credits, and I don’t mean no cutscene. I mean nothing. After beating the final level, I was shown the level select screen. It didn’t even indicate that the last level was completed. Thinking it was a bug, I even beat it a second time. Nope, nothing registers. Thanks a lot.
EA has taken a great franchise and buried it in unfair difficulty to push microtransactions. It’s sad, considering Peggle Blast introduced new, enjoyable mechanics. To be fair, I did have some fun with it. I didn’t beat it for review purposes; I beat it because I enjoyed playing it. However, I put up with a lot to get that little bit of enjoyment out of it. I can’t recommend Peggle Blast, and it seriously hurt Popcap’s reputation with me.
I am MrDevee on Apple’s Game Center and @TheUser on Twitter.
[Updated on 1/30/15.]
Pixel Press Floors is an iOS and Android game that allows you to make your own platformer levels. I Kickstarted this around June of 2013 because of an interesting hook: you actually design by hand on paper and take a photograph of the paper to import it into the game.
There were a few hiccups, such as the Android version being significantly delayed. As an iOS user, this didn’t bother me. However, two others things did. First, the game changed from a paid game to a free game with in-app purchases. As someone who backed the game early, I got an account in the game that reflected this. Supposedly this would give me bonuses. I don’t know what those are. I thought I was supposed to be able to place enemies in my level (it’s normally an IAP), but I don’t see any option for that currently. [Update: I contacted the developer, and they fixed everything for me within a day. Great customer service!] The second, bigger problem is that the creation mode ended up being iPad only. That’s great if I owned an iPad, but I don’t.
Regardless, I finally had a chance to sit down and make some levels with gem’s iPad, and it was a ton of fun. I’m still annoyed about not being able to create on the iPhone, and I’m hoping they add it. As for the backer bonuses, I don’t know what the deal is there, but I just reached out to Pixel Press to find out.
As for making levels? Fun! You don’t get to change any of the physics or design your own sprites, but you still can set the layout of levels. Even though what initially piqued my interesting was designing on paper, I did the whole thing on the iPad. You can watch the video embedded above to see my level, appropriately named The Adventures of Peter. And hey, I published it around 1:30 today and it already has 77 plays!
If you like platformers, you might want to give this a try. As mentioned, it’s free. There are a ton of community-created levels, and you can search for mine as well.
Ace Ferrara and the Dino Menace for iOS makes you a pilot, defending humanity against the space-faring dinosaur threat! The game’s developed by Philipp Seifried and published by BulkyPix. Dinosaurs are returning to take over the Earth using their spaceships, and players are tasked with stopping them! The game gives you control of Ace Ferrara as you engage in space combat and cartoon fun.
Ace Ferrara and the Dino Menace contains great space combat adjusted with superb controls for a phone. It has a silly storyline that I enjoyed. It’s not so gripping that I was constantly hankering to find out what happened next, but it definitely entertained me and gave motivation to move forward into each next mission. Check out the trailer if you want to see more. If you decide you want to stop the Dino Menace, you can pick up the game for $3.99 on the iTunes Store.