Thursday, January 31, 2013
Thursday, January 31, 2013 Syntheticvoid 1 comment
FDG has been on our ‘list of publishers to pay attention to’ list for quite some time. Actually, since 2010 with the release of Across Age, one of the best Zelda-esque games available on the iOS. Now with their latest release, Banana Kong, they have done something incredibly special; Hit the #1 spot on the iPad Paid Apps list in iTunes! Now, it’s no secret that this is one of the most coveted achievements for an iOS developer, so the fact that Banana Kong has done it is, in itself, amazing, but behind everything that comes with the #1 spot on iTunes is a very well developed, entertaining and challenging game that has a pretty decent potential to be worth your money as well as the time you’ll wind up sinking into the game.
With Banana Kong being an Endless Runner, I know that there are plenty of you out there who are just sick to death of the genre, and really don’t want to give this one a chance. In fact, I was one of those people for a while. But I gradually got back into them around the time Jetpack Joyride and Ski Safari came out, and now, some of my favorite games being released these days are endless runner type games because, like just about every other genre out there, endless runners are evolving again, adding to the typical auto-runner gameplay. With that being said, Banana Kong doesn’t add anything new to the genre, which is strange considering it’s positioning on the iTunes charts, but I’m sure it’s the game’s simplicity that’s drawn so many gamers in.
You’ll control Kong as he speeds through the jungle collecting bananas and avoiding various hazards. With each run, you’ll have the opportunity to complete 3 objectives which, in turn, reward you with bananas that you can spend in the game’s power-up and utilities shops. The controls are simple enough; tap to jump, hold while in the air to glide, swipe down to drop down from a platform or bounce harder on treetops and flowers, and swipe right to activate your boost, which is available after collecting 11 bananas. This boost ability lets you smash through rocks and other hazards and also allows you to enter the upper treetop area if you boost while swinging on a vine, or go down into the jungle caves if you boost into an entrance. If you fall into the lava in the cave system, or don’t bounce off of a treetop, you’ll be sent back to the main jungle area, however, if you run into an object like a rock or other hazard, it will be game over.
In the power-up shop you’ll be able to purchase upgrades for the various animals that you’ll encounter like the giraffe (who can save you while you’re in the treetops), boar (who can destroy environmental hazards) and the toucan (which carries you over water, collecting bananas until you run into an object), magnets, special rainbow bananas worth 30 bananas and your glide ability. In the utilities shop you can purchase one time use items like extra lives, boosters, full dash bars and a water bounce which saves you once from falling into the water. These upgrades and utilities are fairly high priced, especially considering when you first start up the game, chances are you’ll be earning around 100 bananas per run and most upgrades start at 1,000 bananas while items range from 300 for a full boost bar to 2,500 for an extra life. Luckily, completing objectives will earn you around 100 bananas for completing them, and with the possibility of completing 3 per run, they will help you out quite a bit.
If that’s still not enough bananas for your taste there are, of course, IAPs. Free bananas if you want to sign up for and go through the hassle of downloading more apps through TapJoy are available, and then 2,500 bananas for $0.99, 7,500 for $1.99, 15,000 for $2.99 and 50,000 for $7.99 are all available for purchase. This might bother quite a few gamers, but considering it’s an endless runner, and the whole point of the genre is to play over and over and over again while trying to beat your own, as well as others, high scores, it might not bother other players. If the upgrade/item prices were a bit lower, it might really ease the sense of the whole ‘pay to move up the leaderboard’ feeling that a lot of gamers will most likely have.
Aside from the expensive items, Banana Kong is your typical endless runner that will appeal to both casual and hardcore fans of the genre. However, it is very well polished, and does have a certain amount of charm that will keep most players coming back time and time again. As you can imagine with the game hitting the #1 spot on the iTunes charts, there are quite a few GameCenter players (191,812 at the time of writing this review), so you can bet that there’s some pretty stiff competition going on in the score-chasing department. On top of the leaderboards for distance and number of bananas collected, there’s also 33 hard to snag achievements that will keep players busy for quite some time.
Priced at $0.99 and being a Universal app, Banana Kong might not add anything new to the runner genre, but it could be a nice addition to any iOS gamers collection. So long as you don’t mind putting in quite a bit of time so you can max out all of the upgrades and then work on purchasing the one time use items, Banana Kong has the potential to give you hours and hours of entertaining, well presented, charming gameplay.
Thursday, January 31, 2013 Syntheticvoid 1 comment
Late last year, one of the best platformers to ever hit the AppStore was released. Mutant Mudds, developed by Renegade Kid. Priced at $0.99, it was a steal of a deal, with 60 hardcore levels, 6 endings to reach, upgrades, hidden levels, hovering, multiple dimensions... and the controls were outstanding, as well as fully customizable. If you happened to miss out on the release because of one reason or another, now is your chance to pick up Mutant Mudds for FREE. That's right - FREE. Easily one of the top 10 platformers for the iDevice (and definitely in my own personal top 3 on the iOS), you shouldn't miss out on this giveaway, even if you aren't a fan of platforming games - download, install, tell all of your friends about it - and get ready for one hell of a great platforming experience.
Thursday, January 31, 2013 Syntheticvoid No comments
If you’re a regular reader here on TAS, you know that one of our favorite genres is definitely Shoot-em-ups, and if you’re familiar with my own person favorites on the iOS, you might remember that Space Tripper was my #1 favorite game of 2011, and even after the intense and amazing year of 2012, is still one of my 3 favorite iOS games ever. So if you’re familiar with this next game, it should be no surprise to hear that I’m absolutely enjoying the heck out of it. Originally a PC/Mac title, Syder Arcade has been ported over to the iOS (and Android), and even with it’s virtual controls, feels right at home on the touch screen.
Syder Arcade is described as a ‘free-scrolling, multi-directional shoot-em-up’ inspired by the hardcore old-school arcade games of the early 90’s. Like Space Tripper, you are able to switch the direction in which your ship is facing from left to right. This, along with some fairly large levels, kind of makes it feel like a sister game to Space Tripper.
Containing 6 campaign levels, 1 endless, survival level, 4 difficulties and 3 ships, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, Syder Arcade has quite a bit of available gameplay. There is a pretty decent backstory which is touched on in the campaign’s 6 levels, unfortunately, this story is only available on Studio Evil’s website, and can not be found within the game. After months of war against an unknown enemy, you’ll be piloting a ship with Lieutenant Melville as you try and defend Captain Reyes’ fleet and make your way to their surprising technology and even more surprising fleet behind it.
The controls work surprisingly well, considering it’s a SHMUP with no relative touch. Controlling your ship is done with a floating virtual joystick on the left side of the screen while flipping your ship is done with a virtual button on the right. You’re also given a v-button for your special shot which is placed under the button for ship direction.
The reason the virtual controls work so well is because of the layouts of the levels. They do not automatically scroll from one side to the other, instead, your free to move about throughout a fairly large area and also have quite a bit of space to move up and down. The camera moves to always keep your ship on screen, and usually keeps enough space around the edges and bottom of the screen to keep your fingers out of the action, and give you ample time to react to enemies, their projectiles, and environmental hazards.
Not only would relative touch controls ruin the gameplay, they would make some of the different ship stats obsolete. One of the biggest factors in which ship you choose will be its speed, which is different with each ship. As you play through the game, you’ll also earn stat increases that can increase your movement speed. All of this taken into consideration makes a virtual joystick fit perfectly with the gameplay.
Along with the speed stat increases, you’ll be able to pick up projectile power-ups which will give you different types of projectiles on top of your ships basic shot, like a spread shot, plasma shot and machine gun. You’ll also be able to grab homing missiles along with side and rear shots as well. Mixed in with all of these are repair and shield items as well as items that boost up your special shot gauge, all of which will help you though some of the tougher parts of the game.
Each one of the 6 stages has it’s own objective. In the first stage, you’ll need to catch up to the main fleet battleship. The second stage has you defending that battleship, while the third stage has you making sure that your battleship can repair itself before being taken out. I don’t want to mention the objectives in all of the levels just in case you’re interested in the story, but this should give you an idea of what you’ll be faced with.
Now, as you’re blasting away enemy ships, you’ll also be able to earn medals for combos, consecutive shots, kills, powering up your ship and much more, that will help boost your score. Also adding to the challenge are 25 GameCenter achievements. Unfortunately, there’s currently a problem with them not unlocking at the moment, but the developers are aware of this issue and will hopefully have it fixed with the first update.
Survival Mode is another great addition for gamers looking for that extra challenge, or just another gameplay mode that jumps right into the action. Here, you’re given one life and the ship of your choice with it’s basic level 1 weaponry to survive as long as you can while getting the best score that you can. While there is only one survival level, and the patterns for the enemies are the same every time, it does add to game and helps to round out the gameplay as well.
Graphically, the game runs at a pretty solid 30 FPS, with the occasional drop, but nothing that effects the gameplay. The graphic design is great, especially with the backdrop for each stage adding a ton of extra depth to the look of it all. Now, I will admit that this is one SHMUP that I do not own on my PC, but it’s pretty clear from watching YouTube videos that the graphics have been brought down quite a bit, to the point where on the PC it looks like a possible PS3 title, while on the iOS it looks about PS2 quality. However, keeping in mind that this is able to run on your phone/tablet and that the price has been reduced from $8 down to $1 and is a game completely inspired by old-school Amiga games and was created for fans of those old-school games, the amount of flashy graphics, or lack there of, shouldn’t really bother too many people. The graphics and animations by iOS standards are still fairly impressive, and the mood created by the look, feel, and BGM contained within the game is fantastic.
With Syder Arcade being Universal and, as stated, priced at a measly $0.99, it’s a must-own for fans of old-school arcade titles and SHMUPs in general. There are a couple of issues with the dropped frame rates, and GameCenter problems, both of which the developers have said will be addressed in updates, there’s still not much along the negative side that I can say about Syder. It’s a challenging, well designed and just plain fun to play game on the iOS’s touch screen. There is one thing that I probably should state in this review; it’s only playable on the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S or newer. But what Studio Evil has given iOS gamers is another console quality title on the mobile platform, and with no IAPs and for a buck, it’s incredibly easy to recommend.
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Wednesday, January 30, 2013 Syntheticvoid No comments
As I've said quite a few times in the past, platformers are the reason I got into gaming. The original Super Mario Brothers was the very first game I ever played as a child, and Metroid II - Return Of Samus is my favorite video game of all time. So it shouldn't be any surprise to hear that I have around 60 platformers on my iPad right now. However, there aren't too many that wind up staying on my devices after I have completed them. Today's Review Rewind title, Niko, developed by Fabrication Games, the same guys behind Project 83113 (which, unfortunately, has been pulled since it's release), Ionocraft Racing (which has also been pulled) and Free Zombie Hero, among others, has been on my device since its release, and has not been deleted yet. Why? The gameplay is just incredibly fun. There were also leaderboards, but they were through OpenFeint, and the game has not been updated since the OF deletion of 2012, but I still replay levels to try and beat my own scores. I might also be a little worried that it'll be pulled from the AppStore and I'll never be able to unlock the full game since it's an IAP unlock only.
**Note: This review was written after playing Version 1.0**
'Niko' is a unique platformer published by the Sulake Corporation, also known as the makers of Habbo Hotel, which is integrated into the game with badges and medals. 'Niko' is released with six free levels, with a 1.99 purchase for the full game, which contains over 30 levels in total. In it, you take control of Niko, a lovable little character, in his quest to rescue his friends from the Otherworld. Along the way he can also release the mysterious Sun Sprites, who have been trapped in the Otherworld along with his friends.
Graphics and Animations: 4.5/5
The graphics of 'Niko' look very good, with a pseudo-3D effect on the otherwise 2D graphics. The animations are also great, particularly the jumping animation, which has you spinning like a ball through the air. At times I almost wish it allowed you to do this when running as well, but I think that would make it look too much like Sonic. Some of the art may take a little time to grow on you, but it does look nice, particularly the Niko character on the menu screens.
Though the game does have decently large levels, it does feel a tad bit low on content. With 30 levels, you might go past them a little quick. However, with a 3 star rating to attain each level and 3 switches to find, it does make up for itself. Game Center achievements and leaderboards are also available, along with Open Feint, allowing you to compete against people around the world. Overall there's a decent amount of content here, but I think a little bit more would make it better.
'Niko' combines several game elements to make an enjoyable game experience for even someone who isn't a fan of platformers. There's no risk in just trying it out either: Niko comes in a free to play model, with six levels completely free before a $1.99 purchase for the full game. Sulake and Fabrication Games team up to bring us an inventive and enjoyable platformer.
Saturday, January 26, 2013
Saturday, January 26, 2013 Syntheticvoid 1 comment
If you haven't guessed it yet, Kemco is one of our favorite RPG publishers here at TAS. With titles like Alphadia, Symphony Of Eternity, Grinsia, Dark Gate and others, they've secured their spot in our hearts right next to the old-school Square titles like Final Fantasy, Breath of Fire, Chrono Trigger, Secret Of Evermore and others. However, there are certain titles from Kemco that definitely stand out above the rest, and Hit-Point's Fantasy Chronicle is easily one of those titles. With it's depthy equip and skill systems along with it's well thought out and incredibly charming and immersive story, Fantasy Chronicle is one Kemco title that will never leave our devices. This is a rare thing, especially in the RPG genre, but personally, I've played through FC 3 times now, and have every intention of playing through it again in a couple more months. It's just one of those games that reminds you why the iOS gaming platform is so great, and how lucky we are to actually have developers that treat the platform with the utmost respect. If you have yet to check out Fantasy Chronicle, we highly recommend you do so as soon as possible. It's one Turn-Based RPG that every fan of the genre should experience.
**Note; This review was written after playing through Version 1.1.0
Kemco, a Japanese development company specializing in Turn Based RPGs, has just released their newest iOS port, Fantasy Chronicle. If you’re familiar with Kemco’s last releases, Symphony of Eternity, Alphadia and Eve of the Genesis, you probably already know that Kemco is right up there with Square Enix when it comes to the quality of their stories, combat mechanics, depthy equip+upgrade systems, the music used in their titles, and, of course, the gameplay. Fantasy Chronicle is no exception, and, in fact, is their most polished, and well thought out English translated iOS release to date.
Fantasy Chronicle tells the story of 8 characters; The main character, Light, his foster sister, Fina, their ‘Grandma’, Ohma, Alterbo, a sargent in the army, Holos Over, a young girl, Corona, a magical rabbit, Mr. Poo, a girl who looks a lot like Fina, Retea, and Ray, a woman from the Dark Clans. There are other minor characters which you’ll come into contact with throughout the game, but these are the 8 that play a major roll throughout the majority of the game. I don’t want to give too much away, because like Kemco’s previous releases, the story is a huge part of the game. However, in Fantasy Chronicle, the story is a bigger part of the game than any of their previous English iOS ports. There’s a lot more going on with the characters, a lot more growth with each of them, as well as more twists, turns, drama, conflict, obsession, revenge, and everything that makes fantastic dramatic writing. The translation is also superb, as we have come to expect from Kemco. No Google Translations here. There are a couple of words that shouldn’t have been capitalized, and maybe a comma missing here and there, but aside from that, the story, and everything every single one of the characters within the game says is understandable, and grammatically correct.
Light, the main character that you will start off playing with first, is an orphan, being raised by a woman named Ohma. Living with Light and Ohma, is a young woman named Fina, who is about Light’s age. Light, wanting to follow in the footsteps of Alberto, a friend of the family, and presumably someone whom Ohma has also raised, joins the volunteer army known as Holos Over. After a couple days of training, the village in which Light has grown up in, Selka, is destroyed, with no trace of Ohma or Fina left behind, and all that’s certain is that whoever destroyed Selka is the same person or group who destroyed another village because of the symbol found amongst the ruins. You’ll go on Light’s journey to find out what happened to Fina and Ohma, and discover the truth behind who’s at fault for the destruction of his village, as well as the destruction of other villages throughout the land.
Gameplay, Controls & Music: 5/5
The gameplay in Fantasy Chronicle is typical of Turn-Based RPGs, in that you’ll be able to wonder around in towns, and other areas, as well as having a world map. You’ll start off being able to visit your hometown, and then as you explore through forests, and go down other paths, you’ll start to unlock and open up other areas within the world map that you’ll be able to jump to. Each town has a handful of places which you can visit, the Inn, Item Shop, Workshop, Town Square, Guild, Private House, Church, ect. But you will spend most of your time within the Workshop and Guild, as this is where you’ll get your missions, and upgrade equipment. Most of the time, the game plays like older Final Fantasy games, with your characters needing to speak to certain individuals in order to progress through the story, so you will also be spending a lot of time talking to the people in each of the towns, learning about the world, and triggering more story sequences.
There are some areas which do have quite a bit of grinding, but as you’ll quickly learn, what grinding there is is heavily rewarded with the story sequences that break it up. In relation to Kemco’s previous releases, the grinding is not as heavy as it is in Alphadia, but it is there. Good thing about it, though, is that with the extremely well designed combat system, the grinding could actually be considered a welcome addition, with the game having very few battles that can be won by pressing the ‘auto’ button. As for the controls, you can choose between using the touch controls, or having a virtual button set-up on the screen. There is a quick button change between the two in the lower right corner of the screen. This control set-up is great, and should really be used more in iOS games, as there are certain sections which feel better with the touch controls, and others that are better with the virtual buttons. For instance, the virtual buttons are great for exploration, and moving throughout the menus, as well as jumping from place to place on the world map, where as the touch screen controls are fantastic for the combat, upgrade, shop, and mission screens, and being able to switch between the two just by touching the lower right corner makes deciding what controls you would prefer for different sections extremely easy. The music is exceptional, and fits with the game to a “T”. There is not one section of the game where the music does not fit the mood for what’s happening. Numerous times multiple musical selections are used for one dialogue sequence, changing as the mood does.
The graphics are typical of your usual retro looking RPG. In fact, you could say it looks extremely generic. However, the up-close character images during dialogue, and their models, as well as every single one of the enemy sprites/models, is done exceptionally well, adding a lot to the feel of the game. Each of the environments that you’ll traverse through are put together extremely well. With some places given a nighttime look, and others being underground, it really would have been nice to see some lighting effects used, even if in a 2D fashion. However, what the classics have shown us is that graphics are a very small part of the genre as a whole, and even though showing off some new insane graphical style would have added to the game in a cosmetic sense, it’s really the story, combat, upgrades, equips, and music that make an RPG game great, though graphics are a big cherry on top, they are not required. Don’t get me wrong, Fantasy Chronicle does, in no way, have bad graphics, in fact, I think almost all of the enemy’s models, as well as the characters hand drawn images all look fantastic and add a lot to the feeling of the game, but if you’re tired of the typical 2D “retro” RPG look, Fantasy Chronicle will in no way impress you.
Combat, Upgrade & Equip System: 5/5
This is where Fantasy Chronicle really shines. The combat, upgrade, and equip systems and mechanics. With the combat, you’re able to choose 3 characters from your party to fight, with each of the three characters able to have with them, a guardian beast. These beasts grow stronger, accumulate experience with each of the characters, and also grow a bond with the characters which you pair them up with. The longer you have a beast and character paired up, the stronger the bond between the two. This bond is used in combat, as you can set each of the guardian beasts to attack, share the damage from enemies, or focus on healing. You are also able to pair up characters, having them join special attacks for a set amount of SP (magical power), increasing the attack that you can use. With the upgrade system, you are able to collect minerals from each of the areas that you’ll explore, from both exploring, as well as from defeating monsters. After you open up a little bit of the game in the beginning, you’ll also be able to use more characters in the Workshops to go and mine for minerals while you’re out exploring, fighting, and in general, progressing throughout the game, and be able to collect it when you come back to the Workshop in each of the visited towns.
Using these minerals, you’ll be able to upgrade items. There are also books scattered throughout the world of Fantasy Chronicle, which you’ll be able to collect, and use to turn current items into different, more powerful items. Along with the minerals, you’ll be able to find swords and armor scattered throughout the world, which you can then bring back to the Workshops, and have them disassembled so that you can gain materials that way too. With the upgrade system, your characters, as well as guardian beasts, become stronger with each level, as well as learn certain spells as they level up. The bond you create with the characters and the guardian beasts also grows, making the extra skills your guardians have stronger as well. Once you start experimenting with the whole combat and equipping systems, you’ll learn how deep they really are, giving you a lot of control over what happens in battle, and what items you equip your characters with. Planning within each of the areas for what types of enemies you’ll face and what elements they might have will also become a big part of what you use to upgrade your equipment, and what equipment you take along with you into battle.
Kemco has shown that they know and have what it takes to compete with the best of the best within the Turn-Based RPG genre, and Fantasy Chronicle is probably their best release to date, being the most polished, well-presented, title they’ve ported to the iOS as of yet. Right now, with it’s price at $2.99, it’s a must buy for RPG fans. The combat system is one of the best I’ve seen, the story is amazingly well written, extremely engaging, and well translated with characters that you’ll become very attached to. Once you start playing, don’t be surprised if you find it hard to start up any other games on your device until you reach the end. Kemco has shown what they’re made of with their previous English iOS releases, but with Fantasy Chronicle, they’ve managed to set a new standard; not only for what fans of the genre should expect from other companies, but for what Kemco can truly bring to the table.
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Wednesday, January 23, 2013 Syntheticvoid 3 comments
Doragon Entertainment, otherwise known as Sunny Tam and developer of the mind-blowingly fantastic SHMUPs; Danmaku Unlimited and Storm Strikers (as well as the endless titles Raptured and Aerikuma and the Super Crate Box type game Rainbow Tissue Cat, all of which are definitely worth checking out), is coming out with the sequel to Danmaku U, Danmaku Unlimited 2.
I've been lucky enough to be a part of the beta testing team, and I have been nothing but impressed with the game. There are quite a few tweaks and improvements as well as complete changes that will be found in DU2. First, there's two gameplay modes. One is the 'Classic Mode'. Here, destroying enemies in close range builds your multiplier while grazing bullets adds to your bonus. Destroyed enemies also add to your Trance Gauge, which is a more powerful shot that can cut through enemies like butter, and drops gold stars, which are worth big points. The second mode is 'Burst Mode'. Here, destroying enemies drops blue orbs that fill your Beam Gauge while destroying enemies at close range causes more blue orbs to fall than normally would. Once you have a certain amount of blue orbs collected, you can activate your Beam Shot. This shot cancels out bullets while both bullets and enemies destroyed while using this shot drop black diamonds that raise your multiplier. Burst Mode also utilizes the Trance Gauge, which is filled the same way, by destroying enemies. Once it's full, you can blast enemies away with the insanely powerful shot and collect the gold stars that fall, boosting your score. Here, grazing bullets also adds to your bonus score.
Both modes utilize the ADS system instead of bombs. Here, if the ADS system has power and you're hit by a projectile, the screen will be cleared of bullets and the ADS gauge will drop. You'll loose a ship when you're hit and the ADS gauge is empty. The controls are a bit different as well. Instead of the controls that were used in the original Danmaku, DU2 allows for 1:1 relative touch through 2:1 relative touch with a sensitivity slider in the options. Like the original DU, you're also able to change the size of the gameplay screen, allowing for a deadzone beneath the play area, or to get rid of the deadzone entirely.
The virtual controls are also a thing of the past, with DU2 utilizing swipes to activate your Trance and Beam shots. Swiping up activates your Trance Beam while swiping down activates your Beam Shot. In 'Classic Mode', swiping down changes your shot from it's normal spread to a more condensed laser shot.
The graphics have also overgone a nice overhaul, allowing for bullets to stand out, and running at a solid 60 frames per second. Danmaku Unlimited 2 is also going to be a Universal app, and looks beautiful on the bigger iPad screen.
We'll keep you informed whenever we get any more information about Danmaku Unlimited 2 as it's release quickly approaches. Needless to say, we're incredibly psyched to check out the final version of the game. Here's a preview trailer for the game and some screens, check em out and try not to drool too much. =o)