Download Alien With A Magnet on iTunes!

This one touch puzzle platformer ramps up the difficulty and will toss you into a world fille dwith more than 45 levels along with a time trial gameplay mode. Loads of opportunities for increasing your score and shaving milliseconds off of your best times along with GameCenter support add loads of replayability to this one. Don't miss it!

Download Whril The Squirrel on iTunes!

Whirl The Squirrel has lost all of his precious THINGS to his 'nenemies. It's up to you to race through 18 wonderfully designed levels in this speed-run, racing platformer. Perfect for fans of Sonic the Hedgehog!

Download Evilot on iTunes!

An interesting Lane-Defense title from Syrenaica Development. Help Count Dolfus defend his treasure against the onslaught of knights and adventurers who are trying to steal it away from him. Only $0.99 in the AppStore!

Download Kinetic Damage on iTunes!

Easily one of the best fighting games on the iOS, Kinetic Damage presents an amount of depth that's rarely seen within the genre. Fans and newcomers alike should jump on this one ASAP!

Download Best Park In The Universe on iTunes!

Check out a brawler specifically designed for the touchscreens from Heavy Boat Games and Cartoon Network! 3 worlds, 15 levels and some intense action staring Mordecai and Rigby from CN's Regular Show! Be sure and grab this great little beat-em-up!

Download Liberation Maiden on iTunes!

From Level-5 and Grasshopper, the action packed mech shooter; Liberation Maiden is now available on the iOS! With improved graphics and controls, this is definitely one to dive in to.

Download Eve of Impact on iTunes!

One of the best Missile Defense games available, with awesome graphics, sweet gameplay, and now it's Universal! Check it out!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Star Warfare: Black Dawn [Freyr Games] - $2.99

Gamers always dream of their favorite console games being ported to the iOS. It’s just our nature. Being able to have our favorite games in our pockets is something that all of us want. Last year, when the official Borderlands iOS game was released, the hype that built was outstanding. Needless to say, once more and more information about the title became available, that hype dwindled and once the game finally hit the AppStore, there was quite a bit of backlash from both Borderlands fans and just curious parties. It was a major flop, to say the least. Well, now iOS gamers can rejoice yet again, because without warning, Freyr Games, developers of the 3rd person shooter Star Warfare, has just released the sequel, Star Warfare: Black Dawn. With little advertising, and almost no hype, especially considering what the game is, we finally have it; Borderlands on the iOS. 

Not to say that this is a direct clone. But just about everything that made Borderlands so incredibly great can be found in Black Dawn; The different skill trees, hundreds of random weapon drops, multiple characters, each with different pros and cons, warp gates, open environments, damage pop-ups all over the place, and even kill for second chance mechanics. Unfortunately, there are a couple of things missing; the spoken dialogue, massive injections of humor, vehicles, jump & sprint actions. Though it’s hard to hold that against Black Dawn when so much of the game is done right, and offered for a measly couple bucks. And as crazy as it is being able to play a game of this caliber on our phones and tablets, with as much as the game has taken from it’s console inspiration, it’s almost impossible not to compare the two, and judge Black Dawn based on what Borderlands is. 

Black Dawn lets you choose between 8 different characters and 4 different classes (one male, one female for each class); Prayer, the medic class, Engineer, the geek class, Soldier, the powerful class and Sniper, the ‘foxy class’. Prayer class characters can set up a healing station, Engineer’s can drop machine gun turrets while Soldiers can set up an Avatar to distract enemies and keep them busy and the Sniper can set traps. Each class has 3 different skill trees that they can build up and pick skills from. These extra buffs help immensely throughout the whole game for taking out higher level enemies to level up quicker, or if you just get in trouble and need a little extra boost to help you get out of a jam.

Now, a Borderlands clone wouldn’t be complete without an online feature; it’s definitely one of the things that made Borderlands so incredibly fun, and as you can guess if you’re familiar with Star Warfare, Freyr Games knows what it takes to support online gameplay. Black Dawn includes co-op gameplay with up to 4 players. Here, you can play through the game, completing missions, earning experience, gold, mythril, weapons and everything else you can get in the single player campaign, but while playing with others. Right now, there is only co-op gameplay, but in the future Freyr plans to include PvP gameplay with character decoration. 

If you’re not too keen on FPS games because of the iOS’s touch screen, I don’t blame you. I’ve got a hard time getting into FPS titles myself. But Black Dawn has done a great job of making the game comfortable to both veterans and new-comers alike. There’s an auto-lock option, making gaming a lot easier, but also not allowing for many headshots. For those of you who are badass FPS gamers on the touch screen, this option can be turned off so that you can headshot to your hearts content. Movement is done by dragging anywhere on the left side of the screen, while looking around is controlled by the right. The shoot button is placed where most FPS titles have it by default. 

Unfortunately, you’re unable to move any of the icons, and on the smaller iPhone/iPod screen, looking around and turning does block a bit of the screen because you’ll have to reach up and over the shot button. As with most FPS games, you can adjust your aim and look around while shooting by dragging your finger across the screen while pressing on the fire icon, but with so many console gamers coming to the iOS, and with games like NOVA and Modern Combat allowing for customizable control placement, it might be a little frustrating that it’s not included here. However, there are options in the settings menu for reversing the X and Y movement, and adjusting the sensitivity for looking around, which is a huge plus. On the iPad, the controls aren’t really an issue, as there’s enough room to the right and below the fire icon to drag around and look, so you won’t be reaching over or across anything on the bigger screen. 

Objects like gold, ammo and health are picked up automatically by walking over them but picking up weapons and shields as well as opening chests is done by tapping on the screen when a pop-up appears. As for the weapons and shields, it’s pretty similar to Borderlands; the pop up shows the weapon or shield along with it’s stats and how much you can sell it for. Chests are opened by tapping the ‘Open Chest’ icon that pops up when you’re near them. These options for picking up items and opening chests, however, can be kind of finicky. You’ll have to stop moving and look at the object just right for the pop up to appear, which can be kind of frustrating at first, but once you get the hang of it, it goes pretty smoothly. 

Black Dawn’s graphics look fairly similar to Borderlands, and you might even have a hard time distinguishing the two if you played BL on a lower end machine with all the special extra graphical effects turned off. But aside from that, the animations, character models, environments, and just about everything else is top notch and incredibly well designed. The layouts of the levels are also pretty impressive. While the first couple of areas aren’t too big, you’ll soon reach areas that are huge. Luckily, there’s different warp zones in each map, allowing you to enter the areas in different spots. 

There are IAPs included in the game. But before you go getting all upset about it, here’s the scoop. Mythril is used to play the game’s mini-games of Roulette. Here, you can spend Mythril to take a spin and get a random weapon or shield. You can also convert Mythril to coins. There are no items in the shops that I’ve come across that are Mythril only purchases, everything can be bought with the gold that you’ll collect while killing enemies and completing missions. The only thing Mythril might really come in handy for is for resetting all of your skill points, which will cost you 100 Mythril. Fortunately, if you buy the game, you’re given 100 Mythril for being an ‘early adopter’. You can also earn 140 Mythril for downloading Freyr’s previous games, Star Warfare: Alien Invasion and Amazing Runner, which are both FREE. On top of that, you’re able to watch video ads and check out TapJoy offers for more free Mythril, so there’s no real push towards dumping more cash into the game. Black Dawn is incredibly well balanced, and the only reason I could see to drop a couple bucks on more Mythril is to help support the developers. 

There are some things that will remain frustrating unless they’re fixed. Right now, it’s kind of hard to select “Mission” “Shop” or “Talk” after tapping on a character. Half of the time if you don’t tap at exactly the right spot, you’ll just exit the menu and have to tap on the character to enter it again. There’s also only 10 slots in your inventory, which means that if you like having options when in battle, like carrying around an SMG, Sniper Riffle and then having a Revolver, Pistol and Shotgun handy, you’re left with 7 inventory slots, and that doesn’t allow for many items to be taken with you when you exit the area. There’s also no option to increase your inventory slots, so inventory management is something that you’ll be doing consistently. While this may not bother some gamers, it will weigh heavily on others, and having the option to buy more inventory slots would be a great addition for the future. There are also some grammatical errors in the dialogue. Though it’s nothing that will make understanding what’s being said impossible, it is very noticeable. 

But all-n-all, Star Warfare: Black Dawn is a spot on Borderlands clone that’s well worth the $2.99 purchase and then some, even with the included IAPs. This is what the official Borderlands iOS game should have been but wasn’t. Even if you’re not a fan of Borderlands, Black Dawn offers up some very nice co-op gameplay which is only going to get better, and a huge open world environment to roam around in. I’m actually a little shocked that this launched for $3 when it could have easily came out the gate matching Modern Combat’s price point of $6.99, and still been well worth the purchase. Not only that, but the amazing support that Freyr Games gave to the first Star Warfare based on players feedback gives us loads of confidence that Black Dawn will only get better and smoother. Along with that, it's Universal and supports the iPhone/iPod 5's widescreen. Right now, this is TAS’s favorite FPS title on the iOS, and is a very easy recommendation. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Nameless: The Hackers [BoxCat] - $3.99

It’s pretty surprising that in a store filled with freemium/paidmium IAP pushing games, there’s still a few developers out there that are willing to release games without any in-app-purchases at all. Unfortunately, a lot of these games go pretty much un-noticed, and it really is a shame, especially with so many gamers clamoring for IAP free titles. Well, the most recent ZERO IAP title to hit our devices here at The App Shack? Nameless: The Hackers, developed by BoxCat. Not only is it completely devoid of IAPs, it’s also an incredibly well made game. I was a little skeptical at first, judging by the screenshots, it didn’t look as though the game had what it needed to grab my attention, but after about 5 minutes with the game, it was clear that this was something special, and definitely deserving of every bit of attention and support it could get. 

Nameless: The Hackers is an RPG that focuses on a group of 2 hackers who have been contracted to help find a missing programmer. As you progress through the game, 2 more members will join your squad, and you’ll start to unravel a conspiracy of mass proportions and wind up on a list you definitely don’t want to be on. While you’re following along the main story, you’ll be able to help out people around the globe by carrying out side-quests as well as take down some pretty formidable opponents. While you’re taking out other hacking groups and completing side-quests, you’ll be earning the game’s dual currencies; ByteCredits and Research Points. ByteCredits are used to purchase just about everything in the game from new skills to HP upgrades, Boosters (Defense, Attack, HP, Energy; up by 10% for 15 minutes) and Items (HP refills, energy refills, virus cleaners, ect), while Research Points are used primarily for upgrading (researching) skills. 

Starting off, you’ll just have a couple of basic hacking skills. But fairly quickly, you’ll be given access to the Mt. Fox store where more skills will become available once you hit certain points in the story. Not only will you be able to purchase skills, but you’ll also be able to upgrade them. Upgrades unlock as you collect cards. Cards are collected by taking out various groups of hackers across the world, and by completing certain tasks. A very cool aspect of the cards is that they’re randomly generated. While the type of cards that you get may be pre-destined, the stats that accompany these cards are all left up to luck. 

Each card has 4 segments attached, get a card with 1 segment unlocked, and the card will be a 25% card, 2 segments, 50%, ect. With each percentage increase, the stats that are locked to the card will increase. For instance, a 25% card might tack on 2 to your attack strength, while a 50% card could increase your attack by  or 5. Not only are there random card generations, but there’s also different rarities of cards. A rare 25% card could very well be more powerful than a 50% or even 75% card. 
On top of all this, you’re also able to re-roll cards. In the menu, you can view the cards that you’ve unlocked so far. From this menu, you can select to re-roll cards for a cost. Even cooler? You can pay for a re-roll with either of the two currencies, though re-rolling with Research Points instead of ByteCredits will give you a slightly better chance of rolling a better card. 

As far as the user interface goes; everything can be done while using one hand/finger. Taps to execute moves and navigate the game while swiping to move about the world and select targets has been set up perfectly. The menus are very well designed and uncluttered, while everything else is simple to navigate and very responsive. To access your inventory, you simply tap on your health/energy numbers that are next to the character icons. To access your characters skills, you tap on the character. Underneath the character icons is the menu where you can quickly access the Mt. Fox shop, your inventory, view your collected cards or enter the options menu where you can save your game and adjust the music and sound effects (separately). 

If you ever get stuck, or need a refresher, there is a help/tutorial section in the Mt. Fox shop area. However, with everything being shown to you in a very simple and straightforward manor at the beginning of the game, chances are you won’t need to use this help section. But it is there, and easy to access, if you ever need it. Unfortunately, right now the game is only designed for the iPhone/iPod, and you’ll have to play in 2X mode on the iPad. Luckily, it doesn’t look too pixilated on the bigger screen, and fans of the RPG genre (as much as it sucks) should be use to playing games in 2X mode, considering most RPGs in the AppStore are designed for the iPhone and not made Universal. Nameless: The Hackers is, however, supported by the iPhone/iPod 5’s widescreen, and it looks fantastic on the smaller screen. 

The only negative thing I can say about Nameless is that the choices that you make don’t really effect the outcome of the game. There are some multiple choice decisions thrown into the mix, but the only thing they really effect is whether or not you get a couple of items or a few bonus ByteCredits. It would have been amazing if the developers threw in multiple story arcs depending on choices that you made. But with basically no RPGs featuring mechanics like this, it’s hard to hold this against BoxCat, especially with the amount of polish and how well Nameless plays, and even how great the story is minus decision based effects. 

With an incredibly supportive development team, great artwork and animations, a well thought out and engaging story and surprisingly deep customization systems, Nameless: The Hackers is a steal at it’s current price of $1.99. It is on sale for launch, and the price will rise to $3.99 soon, which does feel like a very appropriate price for a game of this caliber. BoxCat has done an outstanding job creating a fresh and original RPG for the iOS, and better yet, even with the dual-currencies, there are NO IAPs! It’s hard not to get excited about that these days. I’m hoping that Nameless sells well and that we can see more games from BoxCat. As their first outing, they’ve definitely hit the ball out of the park and are a dev team that I will be keeping a very close eye on in the future. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

One of the AppStore's best Beat-Em-Up Titles; Mutant Fridge Mayhem - Is FREE for a LIMITED TIME!

One of our favorite iOS developers, Grumpyface Studios (Wispin, Bring Me Sandwiches!, Super Mole Escape) has just let their incredibly fun beat-em-up Mutant Fridge Mayhem go free for a limited time! With only a handful of beat-em-ups on the AppStore, whenever one comes along, we always jump on it. But most, if not all of them left us wanting more. That is, until we got our grubby little hands on this. There's not one negative thing that we can say about it, except that maybe it's a bit too short (even with the Endless Levels, WE WANT MORE!!). So if you don't have it yet, definitely check it out! 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Review Rewind: Neoteria

There's very few games that have been transferred over to my iPhone 5 that have not been updated to fit the 4'' screen. However, there are some games that are just so freak'n good that half-inch be damned, they're still worth having, even in their 3.5'' states. OrangePixel's games definitely fall into this category... and just about one year ago we happened to review their first SHMUP title; Neoteria. Even though we didn't find it as great as their trademark platformers, we still found Neoteria to be a blast, and gave it a solid 4 out of 5 stars. Now, it's today's Review Rewind, and if you're a SHMUP fan who doesn't own this one yet, you should... even if you only have a new 4'' device.

**NOTE** This review was written after playing Version 1.0.0

OrangePixel has proven, with their mobile game releases, that they are kings of the retro gaming world. Their lineup of Meganoid, Stardash, INC, Super Drill Panic and more now have another title that’ll eat up gamers lives; Neoteria, an arcade inspired retro shoot-em-up with the difficulty level fans of OrangePixel have come to love and respect. And really, OrangePixel development merged with shmup gameplay… a pretty hardcore fan of both couldn’t ask for more.

In the game, you’ll start off with only Easy Mode selectable. As you progress through the first world, you’ll unlock Normal Mode, and once you complete the first world on Normal, you unlock Hard Mode, which, if you’re familiar with OrangePixel’s games, is basically where the hardcore gamers will spend most of their time. You’re given little snippets of the story as you make your way from world to world. The outer mining settlement is under alien attack, and it’s up to you to stop them.
There are checkpoints throughout each world, set up kind of like levels. Each has 3 stars which you can earn by playing on all 3 difficulties. The first star is for beating the level on Easy, second star for Normal, and third for Hard. There are different paths which you can play through on your way through each world, with each path leading to the same end boss. You are able to go back and replay previously beaten stages if you’d like to power-up your weapon, which you do by collecting the blue crystals that enemies leave behind, or if you’d like to try and travel through all the paths in each world.

As with other OrangePixel games, Neoteria is done in a retro style that looks fantastic. However, there is one little drawback. On the iPad, the graphics have a little blur behind them whenever objects are moving. This includes the backgrounds, environments, player ship, enemies, and projectiles. It’s not too much of an issue, because most of the time, you’ll be focusing on the crazy amount of enemies coming at you, and trying to survive, but it is there. I’m not sure if it’s there on the iPod, because of the smaller screen, but if it is, it’s not noticeable.

The controls for Neoteria aren’t really what you would expect from a shooter like this, and it’s where the arcade inspiration really becomes apparent. On the left side of the screen, you’re given two buttons for movement of your ship up and down, and on the right side, there’s a fire button, but you can tap anywhere on the right side of the screen to fire. There is no auto-fire, so you’ll constantly be tapping on the right side of the screen to shoot. Here’s where those quick tapping abilities all you old-school gamers should still have come in handy.
In the Controls Menu, you’re able to move the buttons around as you see fit, which definitely comes in handy if you’re playing on an iPad. However, the touch detection area is pretty small, and does not go outside of the buttons at all. This can result in your ship not going up or down because your thumb is the slightest little bit off. This is understandable, since you are able to move the buttons around, and could potentially have the up button pretty much touching the down button, and you wouldn’t want the detection area to overlap. Being able to make the buttons bigger would be a nice way of fixing this, especially since they go invisible after a short time, and obscuring the gameplay area wouldn’t really be an issue with it.
To top it off, it’s also iCade and Joypad supported!

Neoteria does not really have a whole lot of content, especially when compared to the insane amount of levels in OrangePixel‘s other titles. 3 worlds, each with 8 pretty short levels in them. I’m hoping that like their other games, Neoteria will get some nice content updates in the future. But like other shmups, the value is really in the replay value, not necessarily in the content, and Neoteria has it in spades. Yes, there are only 24 short levels in the game, but you’ll be able to play through them with each of the 3 characters, and finding out how to make it into the hidden paths could take a while.
There’s also the scoring system. At the end of each level, your score is based on the percentage of the level’s enemies that you wiped out, your shot accuracy, and the score you built up while playing through the level. This does add an extra level of replay value, as the first couple times you play through the game, you’ll probably be pounding away on the fire button, and then start trying to increase your score by getting higher accuracy percentages.
Neoteria is also supported by OpenFeint and GameCenter, with 12 achievements, and 3 leaderboards, one for each character (difficulty). So if you’re a high-score chaser, battling for a higher position on the leaderboards is sure to keep you busy for some time. Getting all of the achievements should also take a while, as a lot of them are for finding the secret paths, and 100% completing each difficulty.

Granted, Neoteria isn’t OrangePixel’s best release to date, but I’m ecstatic that one of my favorite development teams released a shmup, one of my favorite type of games (yeah, I’m a platformer/shmup/strategy fanatic). The developers have said that they’re working on another control scheme, as a few players aren’t really comfortable with the current set-up, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it got a few content updates as well. OrangePixel’s other titles have also been known to get very fleshed out/extremely polished based on player feedback, so the distortion with the graphics, touchy controls, and any other issues that there might be, have a very good chance of being dealt with.
At $1.99, being Universal, having iCade and Joypad compatibility, as well as the crazy high replay value that comes along with shmups and games having GameCenter and OpenFeint support, not to mention, it’s ORANGEPIXEL, it’s a great buy.

Get the RTS title, The Walking Dead: Assault, for FREE via IGN!!!

The Walking Dead: Assault is a real-time strategy title based more on the comics than the show. If you haven't yet checked out this great strategy game, you can get it for free straight through IGN's monthly giveaway. Just head on over to the IGN page and click on the link to get your free promo code! 

This offer is only good in the US, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, German, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Spain and Sweden. Also, you DO NOT need to register on the IGN site in order to get a code. How cool is that?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Updates!! :;: Super Mole Escape, Wide Sky, Hairy Tales and more!

Over the last week, there's been quite a few updates for some incredible iOS games. Here's a list - and if you don't have any of these games yet, you should definitely check them out!

Version 1.1

iPhone 5 resolution now supported! All New Content Update!

(* If you're upgrading, there's a bug with Time Trial stages not unlocking after purchase. Don't spend gems on them if you're upgrading from a previous version. If you installed new everything will work fine!)

- New mode! Time Trial -
Test your digging mettle on a fixed-course race against the clock in each of the 6 environment types. You have two speed burst power-ups to help you out; use them wisely.

- New stage! Coal Factory -
We've introduced a new level type into the mix—a coal factory with conveyor belts that can slow or speed your progress away from the warden. 

- New unlockable character! Gizmole -
Once he gets going this speedy li'l clockwork mole can leave the warden in the dust with ease.

- New power-up! Laser -
Shoots ahead and behind your character to destroy rocks, stop the warden or obliterate foes.

- New level layouts, achievements and leaderboards -
We've added new paths and layouts to the mix of level segments you'll find in the game, and new leaderboards and Game Center achievements for the Time Trial mode.

Plus! - various bug fixes and performance enhancements

Version 1.35

-iPad support (Wide Sky is now Universal!)
-iCloud syncing (iOS 6)
-Small improvements
-Tiny bugs squashed

Version 1.21

You can now record and share your solutions to Hairy Tales levels! Recording happens automatically, and you can decide at the end of a level if you want to share it, as well as view other players' replays.

We have also done adjustments to several levels, improved performance, and fixed some issues that you brought to our attention. Thanks! 

Version 1.4


Now you can play Ku on your iPhone!

We have been inundated with requests to do an iPhone version of Ku so here it is. Thanks for all the support and feedback. 


Version 2.2

Enjoy the love story in widescreen - Bumpy Road is now iPhone 5 ready!

The original iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPod touch 1st gen and 2nd generation are no longer supported. This update will not run on any of these devices.

Version 2.0

- 2 All-New Levelpacks (40 new levels)
- iPhone 5 widescreen support
- Ending Sequence
- Random Levels
- Multiplayer Random Levels
- Vaccine Item shop
- New Game Center Achievements

Version 1.2

- iPad Retina graphics 
- 3 new game mods 
- Better translations (EN, ES, FR, PT)
- Normal mod, easier than the actual experience 
- Hard mod, harder than the actual experience 
- Insane mod 
- Practice mod to train yourself against specific enemies 
- 2 new enemies 
- New score-based leaderboards 
- You can now use two fingers to play with classic controls 
- Added Missions to improve the experience 
- Added 6 Badges rewards 
- Added settings menu 
- Added in-game markers (score objective, daily best, overall best, safe zone marker) 
- Facebook & Twitter sharing 
- Added Short introduction 
- Added safe places between areas 
- NPCs are now in safe places 
- Completely reworked menus 
- Game balancing 
- Reworked Bamboo area with parallax 
- Enhanced In-game interface 
- Many new enemy waves 
- You can now (try to) hit the kunoichi 
- FXs Improvements 
- Fixed crash on iPod Touch 
- Improved performances on lower devices 
- Gestures issues fixed 
- iCloud sync issues fixed 
- Wolf transform fixed

Version 1.5.1

Plague Inc. Mutation 5 discovered – The Necroa Virus expansion pack 

1. Special Necroa Virus plague type added, an aggressive, unknown virus with ‘extreme regenerative abilities’. 
- Prepare for a new, apocalyptic challenge with radical new gameplay, strategy, evolutions and graphics. 
- Use active abilities like ‘Zombie Horde’ in the battle against Z Com – humanity’s last defense against the dead! 
- Customise your Necroa Virus with 5 new genes 

2. Key user interface enhancements: 
- New population percentage bar helps you see the status of a country. 
- DNA animation now shows how much DNA you are collecting. 

3. Plague Inc. is now available in Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italian. It will detect your language automatically (or you can change language manually in settings (More languages coming soon!) 

4. New events, news and achievements – can you discover the origin of the Necroa Virus 

5. Performance improvements for all devices 

6. Minor game balance / AI improvements / bug fix 

1.5.1 - minor compatibility fix for players on iOS 6.0.1
1.5.1 - Active Abilities fixed to cost 2 DNA on casual, 4 DNA on normal and 5 DNA on brutal
1.5.1 - Game progress will save as intended

Note: Metabolic Hijack gene now working as intended ☺ 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Gods: Rebellion [Calvi + Chillingo] - $0.99

**This review was contributed to The App Shack by Alister from the Touch Arcade Forums**

Over a year ago our Chinese counterparts were given a delightful treat by the folks of Calvi games. That delectation was a title which was all about slashing, dismembering and kicking some serious ass like any proper brawler provides. It was a UE3 powered game called Infinity Of God. Ever since I saw the gameplay videos and features about it, I've been itching for it to be translated and available for localization. Luckily, a well known and highly regarded publisher took the game under its wing and made it playable for all of us. Now bearing a new name to make its international debut, Chillingo proudly presents, The Gods: Rebellion.

In this game you play as Fu Xi, the Dragon God, which came down from the celestial heavens in order to liberate mankind from the oppressive rule of his fellow deities. Somehow I see the protagonist as a Prometheus like figure from the East rather than a god of war. So people who might think the story is a carbon copy of another very popular game can be rest assured, it's not. The narration of the tale is delivered through animated cut scenes that have caveman like art which gives an epic/ancient feel to it. Though I am quite far from nominating it for a world fantasy award, I find the story line to be good enough to entertain me and keep me interested.

Now for the most important part; how it plays. There are various defensive maneuvers you can do such as blocking, dodging and countering an attack. While there are two types of offensive actions such as the dragon fist attack which is weak yet fast and  the blazing axe attack that deal more damage at a slower pace. Another entertaining mechanic to this game are the combos. There are simple combos and  there are special combos which end with a bang. Clearly, the combat system truly shines because of the various ways the player can approach the game. The different facets of the combat also have certain distinctions that can be either a pro or a con, so strategy plays a factor in the gameplay department as well. I also find the over-all controls to be responsive and precise.

Another brilliant factor to this game is the AI. Each opponent you face attacks and moves in different ways. Some enemies can stop your combos by blocking and others will interrupt your momentum by attacking quickly. Plus some enemies also have diverse properties which make their attacks unblockable or can't be countered. I also like the pace and timing which the bad guys come at you. It makes the battles more exciting. So if you're going to do some brainless button mashing, then prepare to die as this is a game of skill and timing. Awareness of the situation that's happening around you is essential, thus doing something at the right time is key to your success. Clearly making progress towards the game feels like a rewarding experience.

It's also interesting that the game doesn't contain any puzzles, unlike some other brawlers that have been released for the platform. But if you're looking for some alternate experiences, or some breaks from all that hacking and slashing, there are some segments in the game where the objective is to avoid traps. Another important thing to mention is the character progress can be attained by collecting soul points that enable you to purchase upgrades, a mechanic  similar to Devil May Cry, God of War and other games within the genre. Pretty much it stays pure to its general concept, which is to generate as much action sequences as possible.

Though this game might not have jaw dropping graphics or contain ridiculous amounts of effects, it still looks quite good. I beleive that it's more crucial that an action game should have a solid frame rate so that there's no glitches or lags. I also like the button size and the camera distance and angles because you can see a lot, if not most of the things, around you. As they say, the threats that you don't see coming are the one's that will kill you. The game also contains IAPs which can be used to purchase upgrades and unlock other characters that you can use. Having played a lot, I don't feel them to be intrusive or necessary since it's your skill that can carry you through. You can definitely finish the game without purchasing a dime.

My only critism about the game is a lack of variety in the enemies you'll face. I would like to see different faces, yet it's very good that you can really distinguish them apart from each other. A classic case of quality vs. quantity. So far as to what I've experienced from my playing sessions, this is the best and most proper brawler available on the iOS. It stays on its main context/goal to give you an action packed extravaganza that you yearn for. If you've been a fan of the genre and are looking to bring a bit of violence and blood into your life, then check this title out. For the very affordable price of a measily $0.99, what more can you ask for.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Review Rewind: DariusBurst SP

So, we haven't had a review rewind in a while - but here's a title that has stuck with us for the last year, and will, most likely, stick with us for years to come. Taito's DariusBurst SP. Unfortunately, DBSP hasn't been updated to fit the iPhone/iPod 5's widescreen, but it still plays beautifully on the new hardware, and if you have a 3.5 inch screen device, or an iPad (yes, DariusBurst SP is Universal), this is definitely a game that shines on the iOS's touchscreen, and should be owned by every single hardcore gamer out there. Better yet, with Danmaku Unlimited 2 just released, we've been in a shmup mood lately, and this has definitely come back into play. 

**Note: This review was written after playing Version 1.0.1

With the hardware for iDevices getting more powerful year after year, it’s no surprise that iOS gamers are seeing more and more games ported over from other platforms. Luckily, quite a few of these games that are being ported over, are getting enhancements, and cost a fraction of their original price. Taito, recently bringing RayForce, a shmup from the early 90’s, released in Arcades, on the Sega Saturn, and Windows, over to the iOS, also decided to port over one of their newer titles, DariusBurst, a PSP and Arcade game, released only in Japan. Taito has also added quite a few features to the iOS version, giving it an all new SP Mode with new enemy patterns, and revised boss battles, as well as the Assault ship from the arcade version of the game, and new music.

With DariusBurst SP (Second Prologue) the setting switches between under-water and space levels, with the bosses being mechanical sea-creatures. This makes for 8 possible run-throughs of the game, and is a great change of pace from the standard World War/Vietnam shoot-em-ups that have cluttered the AppStore over the last couple years.
You’re able to choose between 4 ships, with 2 being locked when you first start the game. To unlock these, you’ll need to do a full run-through of the game in either Original or SP Mode, and to get the second locked ship, you’ll need to unlock Mission Mode, and complete 2 missions in Level 3. Each ship has their own strengths, multipliers, and burst shots.
Like other Darius games, you’re able to choose 5 stages while progressing through a pyramid set-up, having 11 levels in total. While blasting away, you’ll come across various enemies that will be colored either red, blue, or green, each powering up your shot, shield, and missiles.
There are 3 different gaming modes; Original, SP, and Mission. With Original Mode, you’ll be able to experience the original PSP version of the game, with the same enemy patterns and music. The SP Mode gives you a chance to blast through different enemy patterns, and revised boss battles, and all with a remixed soundtrack. With Mission Mode, you’re given 8 different levels to play through, each with 4 missions. You’re only given one life, and are put up either against a regular level without a boss, or only a boss battle, and are set to try and score as high as you can within those parameters. Mission Mode is unlocked once you’ve completed two different paths through the game in either Original or SP mode.

The scoring system in DariusBurst is fairly simple, at least, compared to some of the other depthy scoring mechanics some other Bullet Hell titles have. You’re given a Shot Multiplier which increases as you take out enemies throughout the level and each time you’re hit, your Shot Multiplier goes down. The fastest way to increase the Shot Multiplier is to take out large groups of enemies with your burst shot.
Each ship has their own Burst Multiplier, which is added on to the Shot Multiplier. Each ship has their own Burst Multiplier. For instance, Legend and Next Zero ships both have a 6x Burst Multiplier, giving them a top multiplier of 96x. The Assault ship has a 7x Burst Multiplier, topping out at 112x. To take advantage of this, killing the last enemy in a formation, as well as the mid-bosses, bosses, boss pieces and large enemies will give you the highest scores.
You’re also given bonus points at the end of the game for the amount of ships that you have, getting 10 million bonus points for not dying once. There are also some routes that will give players more points than others. Basically, use your Burst to take out large groups of enemies, large enemies, mid and end level bosses, and try to not get hit or die, and you’ll score big.

The graphics in DariusBurst are fantastic. 2.5D gameplay adds more depth than you would think, with ships able to fly by on the “right” and “left” sides of your ship before coming into “firing view”, and the backgrounds that move alongside the foregrounds where the gameplay is taking place looks gorgeous. There’s also areas where you might get dizzy because of the speed and way that the background moves about, giving the illusion of the ship turning down a 3D corridor, and out into space. Animations for the enemies, especially bosses, as well as the explosions, all look incredible. With the game being Universal, it really shines on the iPad 2, with crystal clear and very crisp visuals, it’s definitely one of the best looking games I’ve had the pleasure of playing on an iDevice over the last couple years.

As with most other shmups, DariusBurst comes along with a huge amount of replay value, especially with the Mission Mode Stages. There’s 3 difficulties, selectable in the Options Menu, GameCenter support with 17 leaderboards, and a whopping 59 achievements. With all 4 of the ships having different types of play, learning how to best play with each of them, along with the different paths you can choose from in both Original and SP Modes, the amount of replay value is extremely high, especially if you’re a completionist who’ll go after all 59 of the achievements.
DariusBurst is set up like a quarter sucking arcade game, and because of that, it has the potential of staying on your device forever.

Taito’s release of RayForce had quite a few fans of the shmup genre worried, as the controls were sketchy, and the gameplay not differing at all between iPhone and Arcade modes, but with the release of DariusBurst, and all of the extra effort that went into creating a special game for the device, Taito has re-claimed a spot directly under Cave on my favorite shmup+bullet hell developers list. The price of $10.99 is a GREAT deal, especially considering the PSP version is selling between $30 and a whopping $120, and doesn’t contain all the extras that the iOS version has. If you’re a fan of shmups, DariusBurst is a MUST BUY. Being Universal, beautiful on the iPad, smooth as butter on the iPod, and just a blast to play, Taito deserves to be supported for this. Hopefully other development companies see the support Taito is getting, and will take the iDevice more seriously. It’s games like this that push the AppStore forward, and give me hope that the device I use as my main gaming console will grow above and beyond ‘real’ gaming platforms.