Saturday, June 30, 2012
Saturday, June 30, 2012 Syntheticvoid 1 comment
I’ve been a fan of Cave games for about 4 years now, after playing ESPGaluda and ESPGaluda II on a friends PC, and DonPachi on his PSX. Since then, I’ve been on the lookout for any Cave titles I could find. Once they started hitting the AppStore, I knew I would be hooked for life. Now, after 6 iOS releases, 2 HD re-releases, and a whole hell of a lot a bullets, we finally have a BLACK LABEL version on the iOS. Bug Princess 2 (Mushihimesama Futari) Black Label. And I can finally find out what all the fuss is about regarding these Black Label versions of Cave games.
First off, the price. It’s not normally something I worry about too much, the AppStore is filled with dollar bin gems and ports of titles slashed down to less than a quarter of their original or other platform prices. Yes, a dollar here and there adds up, but when you can get between 20 and 60 games for the price of 1 XBOX or PS3 game, it’s very hard to complain. But is getting a different version of a game that’s already released on the iOS for double the price (or for the price of BOTH Mushihimesama AND Mushimesama Futari) of the original really worth it? When it comes to Cave, most fans will say ‘yes’, and in a heartbeat. Especially when the words BLACK LABEL are attached to the title.
Bug Princess 2 Black Label is basically like the original (vanilla) version. You’ve got 3 different gameplay modes, Original, Maniac, and the coveted God Mode. Then there’s the huge list of tweaks that are included in the Black Label version; Background colors have been changed, gems are darker, every mode contains more bullets and they’re faster, God Mode has been added while Ultra Mode has been removed, harsher penalties for bombing including a reduction of 6000 on the gem counter and a zero end game bonus if you finish the game with no bombs and Extends (Extra Lives) are different; 100 and 200 Million for Original Mode, 150 and 250 Million for Maniac Mode and 350 and 700 Million in God Mode.
The biggest changes are that every stage has numerous changes with the enemy and bullet placement and patterns, bullet patterns for the bosses have changed, are faster, and boss fights are harder, shot types are no longer available, instead you have a mix of Normal and Abnormal and a new TLB “Spiritual Larsa” has been added in God Mode if you no-miss (including the Stage 5 Boss Battle).
TLDR: It’s been completely re-done, and feels like a new Cave game.
The main reason Cave fans will probably wind up buying BP2BL is for God Mode. But once you actually get into the game, and see how much has changed, the new Original Mode, new bullet patterns, and new enemy layouts, chances are, you’ll get hooked all over again. The new Original Mode really stands out, as the difficulty at first glance doesn’t seem too impressive, especially when compared to God Mode, but after you get the hang of the scoring system, Original Mode becomes just as entertaining as God Mode. Needing to stay up in the top 1/3 of the screen for most of the game makes the difficulty shoot up, as does figuring out when and where enemies are going to pop out, and which ones give off large quantities of gems, which is how you shoot your score way up. All 3 of the modes have been equaled out, each having their own fantastic mechanics, not one of them being out-shined by the other, and each one offering up endless hours of replayabilty.
Control-wise, BP2BL is like any other Cave title. Relative touch controls with a 1:1 ratio. They’re some of the tightest controls you can have in a shmup, which is very important when it comes to bullet hell titles. Considering there’s literally thousands of bullets flying at you, being able to weave and dodge through them all is what it’s all about, and the developers over at Cave Mobile have done an outstanding job making sure that it’s as smooth and fluid as it can be.
With BP2BL being Universal, the graphics are a bit better than DeathSmiles and DoDonPachi Blissful Death, but not quite as impressive as the HD versions of ESPGaluda II or DDPR, which is kind of disappointing. Especially with BP2BL having an XBOX 360 version (Mushihimesama Futari Black Label), I was hoping that the graphics would be a little more clearer, but the menus, and dead zone around the gameplay area look super crisp and sharp.
Bug Princess 2 Black Label is basically a Cave title that will only appeal to hardcore Cave fans. With so many gamers complaining about the price tags of their previous releases, I doubt many of them would be interested in grabbing a $14 suped-up version of a game that they’ve already bought. But for extreme fans of the Bullet Hell genre, knowing that Mushihimesama Futari Black Label is one of the best, if not the best, Bullet Hell title you can expect to experience, and with copies of the game on the XBOX selling between $40 and $120, the price-tag isn’t really a deterrent. There are IAPs, but they’re set up like they are in DoDonPachi Blissful Death, all basically for cheating, and making the game easier (less fun). There is a Boss Mode, which takes you through the bosses of either BP1 or BP2, but you’re given 1 free play a day, so it’s not a required extra purcahse if you want to check it out, only if you want to play it more than once a day, which you might after you’ve gotten your fill of the main game. But by then, another $6.99 for the mode, and endless hours of entertainment will probably seem like a decent deal.
Here’s hoping BP2BL sells well, and that it pushes Cave to port over more of their Black Label titles; ESPGaluda II Black Label, DoDonPachi DaiFukkatsu + Daioujou (Blissful Death) Black Label… I’d jump through hoops (actually, go to more severe extremes which I probably shouldn’t say) to have them all available in the AppStore.
Friday, June 29, 2012
Friday, June 29, 2012 Syntheticvoid 3 comments
Nob Studio, the developers of Dragon Evolution, have been kind enough to give us 5 promo codes to giveaway here on The App Shack. If you don't have the game yet, it's a great score-chasing arcade title, where you choose different evolutions for a dragon to go through over the course of 9 years. You can check out more in our review of the game if you like, and if you miss out on a code, you can purchase Dragon Evolution in the AppStore for $1.99.
Friday, June 29, 2012 Syntheticvoid No comments
Action RPGs have quite a fan following in the AppStore. I’ll admit that since Hybrid and Zenonia, I’ve been hooked on them. But there comes a time when the same thing over and over again becomes dull, and with the crazy amount of Action RPGs available for the iOS, it’s no surprise that seemingly everything that can be done with them has been done, and, aside from an interesting story, the genre is in kind of a slump for the time being. Fortunately, there is light at the end of the tunnel. South Korea’s own Oozoo Inc., a new studio on the iOS gaming scene, has given gamers a very interesting new Action RPG title, Brandnew Boy, developed with one of the best engines available, Unreal.
Brandnew Boy is the story of Rookie, a young boy who’s lost his memory, but happens to have a little TV robot to help him out. As you’ll quickly find out, to figure out who you are, where you are, and what has happened in your past, you’ll need to fight. Various enemies are attacking you for no reason, but you appear to have what it takes to survive, and find yourself.
Brandnew Boy is a 3D game with 3rd person view, something that’s rarely done with iOS RPG titles. What makes Brandnew Boy really stand out is the combat system. To attack an enemy, you just need to tap on them, and then tap in time with the attack animations. There’s also a gauge at the bottom of the screen which lets you know when the optimum time to tap is. This isn’t required, but tapping right when you hit an enemy results in a lot more damage. Once the enemies are about to attack you, an exclamation point appears above their head. To avoid their attack, you can swipe on the screen in any direction, and Rookie will dive out of the way. The movement controls are simple as well, tap to move, and swipe on the screen to change the direction of Rookie. To stop moving, simply tap on the screen again. These controls allow for a clean UI, and work great.
There are two game modes to choose from, Scenario Mode, which is the basic campaign/story mode, and Infinity Mode, which lets you battle it out with various enemies, trying to get the best score you can before you die. As you can imagine, the graphics are top notch. Oozoo Inc has done a fantastic job creating a wonderful world with vibrant colors, loads of detail, amazing animations, and great character designs. The music and effects also help to create an incredibly immersive gameplay experience.
As you level up, and your stats increase, you’re also able to unlock and purchase more items from the shop. Here, you can buy various gloves, shirts, accessories, skills, rings, potions, and more. There are IAPs available, but you can earn quite a few coins just by going through the stages, and playing in the Infinity Mode. You’re also able to replay levels, which is great, because if you get stuck on a stage that’s too difficult, you’re able to go back and earn more coins, and maybe level up some more, increasing your stats.
Brandnew Boy is above and beyond, one of the best Action RPG/3D Action-Combat titles available for the iOS. The great graphics, and superb gameplay offer up a fantastic gaming experience. For $3.99, it’s a great buy for anyone remotely interested in Action RPGs, and a must buy for fans of the genre who have gotten tired of the same old recipe developers have been using. Including 99 achievements 6 leaderboards in GameCenter, coupled with the Infinite Mode, there’s endless replayability. Right now, Brandnew Boy is on sale for $0.99, so it’s an even better time to snag this great game. With more updates in the works, I can’t wait to see what Oozoo has in store for us in the future.
Friday, June 29, 2012 Syntheticvoid No comments
The first stealth game I played on my first iOS device was Silent Swords. Since then, the stealth genre hasn’t really gained much ground in the AppStore. It’s not something fans of the genre aren’t use to, good stealth-based games don’t come along too often, and on the iDevice, we’ve only got a couple available to us. But thanks to Hassey Enterprises, developers of the iOS version of Galcon, we can add one more title to the list of so few; Dynamite Jack, a new iPad only stealth game where you control Jack, a captured space marine who was forced to work in the mines can only use bombs and a flashlight to escape.
Don’t get me wrong, there are many more items that Jack can use during his escape, but your two main resources are your flashlight, and an endless supply of bombs which you can use to break through walls, and destroy enemies. You’ll also need to find and collect keycards, data chips, crystals, and more while figuring out how to move through each section of the mines without being spotted.
There are two control setups in Dynamite Jack, a virtual joystick which can be fixed or float, and a line drawing option. If you’re more comfortable with the Spy Mouse or The Nightworld setup, you might want to use the line drawing controls, but for those of you who prefer it, the virtual joystick is a great option, even though it can be kind of finicky with movement, especially if you choose the floating joystick option. This can sometimes get frustrating when trying to quickly hide from guards or quickly place a bomb. With both control schemes, you’re also given icons for turning your flashlight on/off and placing + exploding your bombs.
You’ll have to be careful as to when you have your flashlight on, as it can draw the attention of the mine supervisors, and their only job? Shoot on sight. Not only do you need to be very cautious with your flashlight, but also your bomb placement. Since bombs also draw the attention of the supervisors/enemies, and you’re only able to place one bomb at a time, not being able to place another one until you set off the one you’ve already set, placing a bomb in the wrong spot can get you killed. You’ll need to figure out where exactly to place a bomb so that you can be far enough away, but also not be in the line of sight of the guards as they come over to inspect the loud boom they just heard, and maybe be able to place a bomb between them and their designated lookout area so that you can kill them on their way back to patrol.
What really stands out, aside from the fact that this is quite possibly the best stealth based game I’ve played on the iOS yet, is the fantastic level design. Needing to explore, and being forced to use your flashlight, even in the most inconvenient of times in order to figure out where to go, or how to reach a certain item is fantastic, and adds a ton of challenge and difficulty to the game.
With 28 levels, the game may seem short, but there’s plenty to do even after you’ve completed the game. Each stage has 3 objectives which are optional, but which add to the replay value, or, if you’re determined to snag them all the first time through, add a crazy challenge to the game. These objectives include beating levels in a certain amount of time, getting through levels without using your flashlight, collecting all of the crystals, leaving all of the guards unharmed, collecting all of the data cartridges, beating a level without dying, detonating a certain amount of bombs, and loads more.
Also adding to the replay value is GameCenter integration which includes 13 hard to unlock achievements. There’s also leader boards for speed run times on every level within the game. Here, you can go against your GameCenter friends times, as well as compete with players around the world. If that isn’t enough, there’s also a level editor, which lets you create levels, and community area, where you can share your levels as well as download maps from other players.
With Dynamite Jack priced at $2.99, and definitely standing out as one of the best stealth games available for the iOS, it’s a must buy for fans of the genre. I'd consider it the best if the controls were tightened up a bit. But even if you’re not into stealth games, Dynamite Jack provides a great challenge for casual and hardcore gamers alike, and is definitely recommended.
Thursday, June 28, 2012
Thursday, June 28, 2012 cabdog No comments
Band Together is an iPad only Puzzle Platformer published by Backflip studios but developed by a new ambitious group of three students. The gameplay is pretty straightforward, but the atmosphere, charm, and superb graphics are sure to draw you in. Problem is, once you are drawn in, the game will likely be half way over all too quickly having you wishing for more content.
The story of Band together has you playing the role of a young bullied kid, Midge, who likes to seclude himself in his attic where he makes miniscule things with his tiny hands. One day he comes upon an old shoebox and finds a group of interesting creatures and decides to create cardboard structures to put these cute beings through the ringer. As we find out, the creatures need to Band together to complete the one screen puzzles and require light to function or they fall asleep (don’t we all!), and are thus deemed Bandies by their demigod. There are no cutscenes, just inter dispersed gorgeous sketch drawings which tell the story of Midges’ plans for the Bandies. The AppStore Description actually contains a little more detail as to the background as well.
The overall ambiance of this game is great, and on the new iPad, the graphics are amazing. You can tell these developers put a lot of thought into the mood. There are 30 levels with the first chunk of the levels going by rather quickly if you are puzzle-inclined, and while the later levels do become quite complex, they rarely leave you scratching your head. The developers have noted that updates with new levels are underway.
This game will only run on the iPad2, and the new iPad. If you are a puzzle platformer fan, and considering the developers have noted new levels are to be released, recommend adding Band Together to your collection
At time of this posting, this game is free, so head over to the AppStore right quick!
Thursday, June 28, 2012 Syntheticvoid No comments
If you didn’t already know, here at The App Shack, we’re huge fans of casual score-chasing arcade titles. The endless replay value, difficulty levels for all players, addictiveness, and gameplay that attracts gamers from a wide range of preferences all seems to hit the right chord with us, especially when all of this is done just right. Ragtag Studio’s first iOS release, Puppy Panic, didn’t really grab our attention, so when we heard of Unstoppable Fist, we were a little skeptical. But after getting our hands on it, passing it around, and trying to out-score each other for hours, we were definitely shown that are skepticism was all for naught.
Unstoppable Fist is an endless arcade title suitable for casual as well as hardcore gamers. You’re able to choose between Easy, Medium, and Hard difficulties, with a very clear bump up in the difficulty levels as you choose the harder modes. The game reminds us a lot of Gun-Fu with it’s gameplay mechanics and challenge.
Your character stands in the middle of the screen, and objects/animals come at him from both sides. In order to take out these objects/animals, you need to tap on either the upper left, upper right, middle left/right or lower left/right sides of the screen, with the character also able to do a double attack if you tap on both sides of the screen, however the character can only do this if you tap on both sides in the same direction (up high, middle, or down low). There is also a special attack which is done by either swiping down or up, and clears out all 3 areas on either the left or right side of the screen.
There’s only one gameplay mode in Unstoppable Fist, which is kind of disappointing. With a game like this, having a Time Limit Mode, or Godlike Mode would have been a fantastic addition. However, the lack of modes doesn’t really harm the game, as each difficulty mode kind of feels like it’s own gameplay mode, and the 3 different environments help quite a bit.
Where Unstoppable Fist really stands out, and shines is in its scoring system. Here, you build up your multiplier by punching objects/animals without missing. If you punch or kick and don’t hit anything, or you get hit by an object, your multiplier resets. This scoring system adds quite a bit of difficulty and challenge to the, otherwise, rather simple gameplay.
With the game being endless, there’s obviously a lot of replay value, but adding to that is GameCenter support, with 4 different leaderboards; 1 board for each difficulty, Easy, Medium and Hard, and one for Top Kills. There are also 33 hard to snag achievements which add a ton to the game. With Unstoppable Fist being priced at $0.99, it’s very easy to recommend. If you’re a fan of score-chasing arcade titles, it’s one you should definitely pick up. It is only available for the iPhone/iPod at the moment, but since the graphics are retro-inspired, and already pixilated, it doesn’t effect the game too much playing in 2X mode on the iPad. Unstoppable Fist has definitely made us excited about what Ragtag has in store for gamers in the future, and we can’t wait to get our hands on it.
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Wednesday, June 27, 2012 Syntheticvoid No comments
Point & Click Adventure titles are a perfect fit for the iOS, and with more and more of these titles being ported over from other platforms, fans of the genre couldn’t be happier. The most recent addition to the genre is the PC title, Yesterday, developed by Pendulo (The Next Big Thing, the Runaway Series, Hollywood Monsters and Igor), and published by Bulkypix. It revolves around a non-governmental organization’s volunteer, Henry White, who’s trying to help find out who is behind a series of killings driven by a Satanic psycho.
Yesterday isn’t your typical Point & Click Adventure. Revolving around murder, Satanism, insanity, the homeless, and more, Yesterday is more of an adult-themed title, which definitely sets it apart from most titles within the genre.
Even though the atmosphere, environments, and story all revolves around darker subject matter, and looks like it might fit perfectly as a Velvet Acid Christ music video, the character models of Yesterday are fairly cartoony, looking like something you might find on Cartoon Network. Even though this is the case, it doesn’t detract from the amazing atmospheres. The characters, though seeming callow most of the time, provide a rich and immersive dialogue, creating a wonderful story to experience while solving the various puzzles and exploring the dark environments throughout the game.
The controls are typical of any other point & click title on the iOS. You’ll tap where you’d like to move your character, tap on objects or areas you’d like to check out more closely, and when the items in question are shown on the screen, you’re given a magnifying glass and hand icons, with the magnifying glass icon giving you more information about the objects, and the hand letting you interact with the objects.
If there are objects which you can interact with, they will be moved to the bar at the top of the screen, so that you can combine them with other found objects, or use them later on, while dragging them from the bar to an object in the environment lets you use them.
The puzzles contained in Yesterday can be pretty challenging, but helping out with what objects can be checked out is an icon in the lower left corner of the screen. Tapping on this icon lets you see what all objects and items can be looked at more closely in each screen. Checking out everything you can within the environment, combining multiple items and using them to activate various objects in the game is required to progress through the story. But like most point & click games, figuring out what goes with what, and where everything can be found and/or used is where the real challenge lies.
Mixed in with the game’s object matching mechanics are little parts within the dialogue which help add to the game. For instance, towards the beginning of the game, you’ll need to figure out certain chess moves in order to move on in the dialogue. Fortunately, if you’re not into chess, and answer wrong, you can keep tapping on the answers until you get it right. Even though this does sort of beg the question as to why these were included in the game, but they’re nice to see regardless.
Yesterday is Universal, and priced at $4.99. If you’re a fan of the Point & Click genre, it’s definitely one of the best titles available for the iOS, and since it’s published by Bulkypix, you can pretty much guarantee that if any issues arise, they’ll be fixed or dealt with in a timely manner. The only thing missing from the game is GameCenter integration with achievements. But non-the-less, Yesterday contains a fantastic story-line with incredibly immersive atmospheres, and characters that draw you into the story. It’s a title that I’m very pleased to have on my iDevice, and hope to see more titles from Pendulo ported over in the future.
Wednesday, June 27, 2012 Syntheticvoid No comments
Castle Defense titles have become a great way to grab a few minutes of defense strategy gameplay while on the go, because of the AppStore. They’re great anywhere, appeal to a wide range of players, and hit that strategic nerve a lot of us gamers have without requiring us to play through a 2 hour game, or 45 minute level. While games like Stick and Cartoon Wars pioneered the genre on the iOS, games like Legendary Wars and the Fortune series pushed it more towards the hardcore strategy gamer, and that’s where Category 5 Games most recent title, Warmongers, fits in.
Warmongers is a single screen, 5 lane defense title, which requires quite a bit of strategy to progress through. While battling it out through hundreds of levels, you’ll be able to collect coins, unlock and upgrade characters, build up powers, and select special ability giving colors for your army.
Starting off, you’ll need to play through one area, with 3 stages. Each of these stages has 3 separate battles that you’ll need to complete in order to take over the area. Once you battle your way through all 9 stages, each getting progressively harder than the last, the territory is yours. As you make your way through the territories, more and more battles are required to play through before you take the territory over.
In order to win a battle, you need to get enough of your characters over to the enemies side. At the top of the screen is a gauge, starting with each side locked at the middle. Once you get a character over to the enemies side, your gauge takes over a little bit of the enemies gauge. If they get a character over to your side, the gauge moves back. To win the battle, you need to completely own the enemies gauge. Sometimes it can take less than a minute, others, it’s an all out epic battle, going back and forth, with each side almost winning multiple times. It all depends on what characters you send out, when you send them out, what power ups you use and when, and when you use your special color ability. With each character you send out costing mana, and only 200 mana available to you at any given time, it’s usually a struggle the whole battle.
In the shop, you’re able to upgrade your characters, powers and colors. With each character, you can upgrade their level, which increases their defense, speed, and attack, or increase their attack and defense separately. You’re also able to purchase Bloodlust abilities, which are special attacks that can be used when your bloodlust gauge is filled.
There are IAPs in the shop, and with no levels being able to be replayed for extra coinage, and the pretty high cost of upgrades and character unlocks, and the difficulty brought on by only having 200 mana available to you at any given time throughout the game (with characters mana costs being between 35 and 45) it can feel like the game is pushing you towards purchasing extra coins quite a bit. This is a shame, because everything else within the game is top-notch. Unfortunately, this push to purchase extra consumable IAPs after the original purchase of the game can be a real deal breaker for many gamers.
Right now, Warmongers is having a 50% off launching sale, and the iPhone version is priced at $0.99, with the HD version priced at $1.99. Considering it’s pushed towards purchasing extra coins through IAP, having a $1.99 and $3.99 title, and not being universal, it’s a hard game to recommend. But if you’re looking for a game that pushes you towards making certain upgrades without any experimentation, and loads of challenge, and high difficulty, then Warmongers is a strategy game you’ll most likely fall in love with.