Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Black Water [Brisk Mobile] - $1.99

With so many first time developers hitting the AppStore lately, it’s always kinda nice seeing a new game from an already established development team. Not that I’ve got anything against new-comers, it’s just that when a new title from a company that’s put out more than a couple games in the past, you pretty much know what to expect when it comes to ‘will this game be updated’, ‘will it drop in price within it’s first week’, and of course, it’s polished and gameplay potential. Well, earlier this week, Brisk Mobile, developers of Battle For Cydonia, D-Star, Lasers, Drake’s Tower and Medieval, among others, just released the iPad exclusive, Line-Drawing Action Adventure game, Black Water. After witnessing the attack on Black Water’s sheriff, and running over to see if he’s still alive, he hands you his badge. It’s up to you to stop the attacks on Black Water and drive the bandits out of town. 

Now, Black Water can get very hectic, especially considering it’s a tap to shoot/draw a line to move type game. Each stage gives you a main objective, like stopping bandits from getting away after robbing a bank, saving the townsfolk who’ve been locked up in a church, drive away Indians from cattle lands, ect. There is also a secondary objective to complete after the initial objective, like clearing out the remaining bandits or Indians, finding a key to unlock the church doors, ect. 
As you make your way throughout the levels, enemies will spawn randomly, and come at you in waves. There are many different ways you can get rid of them, either taking them out one by one as they approach you, killing everyone once they come around objects, at close range, or you can run around a bit, trying to get a bunch of bandits in one spot, and then take them out with a shotgun, or TNT (which is done by drawing a circle on the screen where you want the TNT to land), or you can pick them off from long range using a riffle. This all depends on your style of gameplay, and the weapons the prefer, but it is nice having quite a few different ways to deal with the enemies.
While running around each stage, there are boxes and crates that you’ll be able to shoot which sometimes contain items that you can pick up, and enemies also randomly drop loot. These include health, ammo and currency. The scoring system is done pretty well, giving you score bonuses for taking out large groups of enemies, or one enemy after the other with combo bonuses. 

As stated, Black Water is another line drawing controlled game. However, unlike most of the other titles within the genre, Black Water does not contain virtual control schemes. This is basically a hit-n-miss when it comes to iOS gaming, as there are tons of gamers out there who prefer that the touch screen be utilized, and hate virtual controls, while others prefer to have iOS gaming feel more comfortable, having controls similar to joypads, and hate when games leave out virtual controls. It’s really just a matter of preference, but it could very well be the deciding factor as to whether or not many gamers will or will not enjoy Black Water. Now, you are able to double tap on the screen to constantly move in that general direction, but as this causes you to run into every object imaginable, it’s something that will most likely not be utilized by many players. I have had some issues with the line drawing occasionally not being responsive which, in a game that’s this full of action, can get to be pretty frustrating when it does happen, even though it’s not too often, it is something that could use some tweaking. 
Reloading is done by tapping the bullets at the bottom of the screen. If you choose to manually reload, it takes a lot less time to do so as opposed to having the game automatically reload for you once you empty your gun. This can get kind of frustrating, as a lot of the time, tapping on the bottom of the screen will, instead, have you fire in that direction which can cause you to take more damage by not reloading, and wind up taking away more time in order to do an auto-reload. It’s also pretty uncomfortable holding the iPad so that you are able to constantly tap the bottom of the screen, while tapping on enemies to shoot them, and draw lines to move, but if you’re someone who usually places your iPad down on a table or other flat surface while you play, this shouldn’t really be an issue. 

Starting off, you’re given a 5 shot pistol. As you progress throughout the game, you’ll be able to collect coins which you can use to purchase more guns. Going through the game, you’ll meet townsfolk who can make certain types of weapons for you, and once you do, those types of weapons will be unlocked, and available for purchase in the shop. For anyone wondering, yes, Black Water does have an IAP system, which you can use to purchase coins and stars for guns, and upgrading. 
Upgrading is done with the stars that you’ll earn in each stage. With each stage having a possible 3 star ranking, leveling up is something  you’ll continually need to do if you don’t want to get too overwhelmed as you progress. There are 3 different skill trees, Attack, Defense and Support, with each skill needing a certain number of skill upgrades above it to be purchased before it’ll become available. The Attack Skills upgrade aspects like walking speed, reloading speed, TNT blast radius, critical hit odds and more, while Defense Skills let you take less damage, give you a chance to deflect damage back to enemies, regaining life when you deal damage, and so on. The Support Skills are probably the last skills you’ll really want to focus on, giving you the ability to collect items from a distance, increase the points you earn from kills, increase the number of bullets you pick up, ect. 

The graphics are decent enough, though kind of cartoony, they do provide a well crafted environment, feeling like a more casual version of Gun when it comes to the atmosphere. The comic strip parts are where the game’s graphics shine, with some nice artwork to be found in these segments. The animations are well done, and the game runs very smooth. The soundtrack also helps to create a nice old western feel, though with the control issues, the game isn’t really as immersive as I’d hoped it’d be. 
GameCenter support is included with 26 achievements, but no leaderboards. With the great combo driven scoring system, I was pretty surprised to find this out, as it’s something that would have definitely added some replay value to the game. As it is now, getting 3 stars is not hard at all, so there’s hardly any reason to go back and re-play levels. Hopefully leaderboards for each ‘world’ will be added in the future. 

Originally priced at $1.99, and on sale at the moment for $0.99, if you’re a fan of western or line-drawing action/adventure games, it’s definitely worth picking up, and actually, with the content and gameplay, even with the issues I’ve had with the controls, I’m surprised that Black Water isn’t priced higher. Brisk Mobile has done a very nice job creating one of the best Western Themed iOS games to date, and if the controls do get tweaked, it’ll be a pretty immersive game on top of that. Since they’ve already updated the game, fixing an issue with the first Bank level looping and becoming endless, it’s pretty clear that the developers are listening to feedback, and willing to, very quickly, fix issues. Now I’ve just gotta get my hands on that minigun, and I’ll be set!


Nice review. I went ahead and bought this when it went on sale, and for some reason, it's just not clicking with me. I've had some pretty bad issues with the controls as well, maybe that's why?

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