Saturday, April 20, 2013
Saturday, April 20, 2013 Syntheticvoid No comments
I will admit that I’m not a huge fan of Point & Click games, but there are a few that have grabbed my attention over the years. Of course, the classics; Myst, Riven and The Last Express, but also a few that I had the chance to play primarily because of their appearance in the AppStore; Machinarium, Another World, Yesterday and The Walking Dead. Well, now I can add one more title to this very short list of games that have completely blown me away. Gemini Rue. Originally released for the PC back in 2011, Gemini Rue has made its way to the touch screen and, even on the smaller iPhone/iPod screens, it’s a perfect fit.
Developed by Joshua Nuernberger and published by Wadjet Eye Games, the same developer/publisher team that released the PC version, the iOS port is basically an exact copy of the original. Aside from the controls, iOS gamers now have the option of playing one of the best Point & Click titles to date. Gemini Rue has won multiple awards, being named Gamespy’s Adventure Game of the Year, Aggies awards for best story, best setting and best independent adventure, as well as winning the AGS Awards for best gameplay, best original story, best player character, best background art, best character art and best sound effects, not to mention being named PC Gamer’s Adventure Game of the Year, all in 2011. If that isn’t enough to push you into dropping the measly $4 for the game, I don’t know what is. Even gamers who are not fans of Point and Click Adventure games have a very high chance of falling completely in love with Gemini Rue.
It is surprising that no awards were given for the games soundtrack, as it’s one of the best compositions I’ve heard in a video game. Nathan Allen Pinard composed the BGM, and it’s fantastic, adding immensely to the dark and dreary atmosphere found within the game. The dark buildings and rainy cityscapes definitely add to the tense feeling and cyberpunk themes found throughout the story. Even the brightly lit hospital like areas of the game have a creepy feeling of solitude, even when other characters are present. This also fits in with the plot, as you never know who you can trust or what the NPC’s are going to do or how they’ll react to you, helping to make it feel like you are completely alone in the world of Gemini Rue.
The game takes place in the 23rd century in the Gemini System. A system that’s recently been torn apart by war, and is under the control of the Yakuza, referred to as the Boryokudan (meaning ‘Violence Group’, which is what the media and police call the Yakuza). Throughout the game, you’ll control multiple characters; Azriel, an ex-assassin turned lawman who is searching for his brother, Daniel, Azriel’s brother who is also referred to as Alpha-Six and Matthius, one of Azriel’s old friends from when he was an assassin. I won’t get too much into the story, as the plot and how it unfolds is a major part of the game, but essentially, you’ll be searching for Daniel, who’s been kidnapped by the Boryokudan, with Matthius’s help.
One of many notable aspects of the game is how the tutorial is presented. Instead of just having a help section, or giving you a brief ‘how-to’ at the beginning of the game, you’ll learn how to do things as you need to. But these actions are also flawlessly woven into the story, adding another layer of evolution into the game. Another aspect that’s not too common in Point & Click games; gunplay. You’re able to duck behind cover deciding when you want to point your head out so that you can fire. There’s also a breath-holding mechanic that gives you the ability to one-hit-kill enemies with a headshot if pulled off right by shooting when your breath gauge is in the green.
Graphically, Gemini Rue does look a little blurred, but the retro feeling of the graphics mixed with modern graphical techniques is pulled off perfectly giving the game a ton of atmospheric qualities. As we already said, the soundtrack also helps complete the atmosphere giving the game a feeling within the setting that would be a perfect fit for any one of William Gibson or Neal Stephenson’s novels. The animations however, are a tad bit clunky. I can’t help but feel like if the animations were a little smoother, it would have added yet another level of immersion to the gameplay. That isn’t to say that the animations are not noteworthy, because they are still well done, it just so happens that they stand out because the rest of the game is so unbelievably polished.
Aside from the animations, the only other negative thing that I can say about the game is the lack of GameCenter. Achievements would have been a great addition for this mobile port. However, like the animations, this isn’t something that takes away from the game at all. I never found myself saying ‘I’d be more inclined to play this game if it had GameCenter integration’, it just would have been an added little plus if it was included. Being Universal and priced at $3.99, Gemini Rue is a steal (especially taking into account that the PC version is $9.99), and we really can not recommend it enough. I know we say that a lot here, especially lately, but Gemini Rue is one of very few games that has secured it’s spot on our Game Of The Year list. It’s a title that every iOS gamer should experience. We also hope to see more of Wadjet Eye Game’s published titles hit the AppStore in the future, especially if they’re anywhere near the same level as Gemini Rue.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
Thursday, April 18, 2013 Syntheticvoid No comments
As you probably already know if you’re even an occasional reader here at The App Shack, one of our favorite iOS RPG publishers is Kemco. The previous releases of Alphadia 1+2, Dark Gate, Grinsia, Aeon Avenger, Eve of the Genesis and Fantasy Chronicle are some of our top favorites within the Turn-Based RPG genre. But the game that got all of our love started, Symphony of Eternity, has finally gotten a sequel. Well, prequel if you want to get technical. Symphony of the Origin went live in English language AppStores last week and after spending about 7 hours with it I can easily say that SotO is my second favorite Kemco title, right after Dark Gate.
Right off the bat, there are some things that stand out; Symphony of the Origin, like Kemco’s last release Aeon Avengers, is Universal. It also supports the new hardware’s 4 inch widescreen. Now, it’s not too apparent by looking at the screenshots in iTunes, but SotO also has some of the best graphics for a Kemco title to date, that combined with the depth of the equip system, all make this stand out as a step closer for Kemco being on the same level as Square in the RPG world.
The equip/item system is definitely one of the many highlights here. Instead of going from town to town purchasing stronger weapons, you’re given the option to upgrade your current weapons. You can also purchase new weapons and trade them out, but skills are locked to them until you reach a 100% mastered portion, at which time the skill be then be available no matter what weapon you have equipped. There are also 3 parts to every weapon; The main weapon (sword, hammer, bow, ect), hilt/arrows and grip/string/guard, each having different perks and stats and with the ability to interchange them all with one another so long as your character uses that type of weapon (for instance, you can not equip a bow string to a sword or hammer, or a sword guard or hilt to a bow, for obvious reasons).
Another aspect of the game that stands out are the voice samples. During battles, your characters will spit out exclamations as they fight, and a phrase at the end of each battle. For some, this might become annoying, and there is an option to adjust the music, fx and voice volumes individually if that’s the case, but personally, I think it adds to the whole aesthetic of the game.
Last thing, before we get into more of the gameplay; SOP Currency. SOP Currency can be purchased through IAPs. It is not required to purchase items, as all shop items can be purchased with the gold that you’ll earn from battles and treasure chests, but instead, is used as a sort of ‘cheat’ currency. With SOP, you’re able to purchase useful quest items like gold in clumps of 10,000, special herbs, potions, gems, elixirs and more that can all be used to cure and strengthen your team, as well as damage enemies. There are also special locations on the map which you can unlock with SOP Currency, giving you access to a sorcerer’s house who helps you master all of the finishing moves you have yet to learn, and 3 separate dungeon areas, each with their own boss. You can also purchase some special training and characters. In the game, two characters will join up with you for short periods of time. You can unlock them and have them available to you at any point in the game if you purchase them with SOP. You can also get special training and boost up your Merit Points max level limit. We’ll get into what more of this means as we get further on in the review, but the thing that is most important is that you do not need to spend another dime after the original purchase of the game in order to complete it. In fact, as you complete battles, you can convert those won battles to SOP Currency. By the end of the game, even without grinding, you should have enough battles won to convert to SOP Currency to unlock some of the cooler areas and ‘cheats’, which also carry over to a New Game+ if you decide to play through the game a second time.
Now, starting off the game, you’ll be able to choose between Normal and Hard Difficulties. If you’re familiar with RPG titles, I’d recommend just going head in on the Hard Difficulty, as ‘Normal’ is more for new-comers to the genre. There’s an NPC in one of the early towns that will let you change from Hard Difficulty to Normal if you’re finding the game too hard. But you can not change from Normal to Hard, so keep that in mind going in to the game.
Story-wise, the game is about humans, elves and dwarves, all living on Earth together, though still separated by geography because of their skills and habits. Humans on the plains, elves in the forests and dwarves in the mountains. Still, their lives are peaceful, and there is no war between the races. Inhuman creatures called ‘Evils of the Earth-depths’, as they reside in the bowels of the Earth, have attacked, trying to take over the Earth’s surface. Your main character, Ryle, is a young knight in training at the time that the human’s castle is attacked. During the attack, Ryle falls through the floor and into a secret area of the castle where a golem is hidden. Once coming within range of the golem, it is activated. Since no one knows exactly why the golem is activated by Ryle, the king decides to keep the two paired together, and sends them to the other races to show the human made golem to them, in search of answers. As you start your journey, more members will join your team while you look for information and try to find out why the evils are attacking and try to force them back into the depths of Earth.
It’s not too original in terms of the plot, but like Kemco’s other published titles, Symphony of the Origin is very well written and translated. There are a few grammatical errors, but you’ll never be stuck wondering what is actually going on within the game. But, like their previous releases, the plot and writing is also one of the biggest things that holds it back from being on the same level as Square’s Final Fantasy, or any of their other RPG, titles. Personally, I love Kemco’s stories, and feel that they are very well written. But I will also admit that they’re lacking when compared to Square’s writing. This shouldn’t deter you from purchasing this wonderful title, but if you go into the game expecting it to match up to the level of FF titles, you might very well be disappointed.
It’s still very clear that a lot of time, effort, love and care has gone into creating the world for Symphony of the Origin. And it’s definitely worth it’s original asking price of $10.99 (though it is on sale ATM for $3.99). SotO is also the second Kemco title that’s Universal, and the third that supports the 5th Generation’s wider screens. With the jump up in quality all around, it’s incredibly easy to recommend this title to RPG fans, especially fans of old-school RPGs. If you’re a new-comer to the Kemco world, Symphony of the Origin just might be the perfect title to start out with. It definitely has secured it’s place on our list of favorite Turn-Based RPG titles on the iOS, and comes with a heavy recommendation. As always, we can’t wait to see what Kemco releases next.
Friday, April 12, 2013
Friday, April 12, 2013 Syntheticvoid 1 comment
The iDevice is home to many bite sized games that are surprisingly incredibly addictive. It’s also a refuge for retro graphics trying to find their core audience. Mixing these two aspects together, Pixel Licker Game’s new title, Slayin, published by the very respectable FDG Entertainment, has already risen to the top of the iTunes paid charts, sharing the company of Bad Piggies, Minecraft, Temple Run, Angry Birds and others. If that’s not enough for you to check it out, there’s also a flash version of the game which was released in late 2011, and can be played on Pixel Licker’s homepage. But still, here’s (hopefully) all the info you’ll need about the iOS version.
Slayin, on the surface, is a simple endless retro RPG title. Each stage is screen sized, meaning that there is no side-scrolling involved. Enemies either drop down from the sky or come up from the ground, and you’re job is to kill them, collect the items they leave behind, purchase upgrades, defeat bosses and get the highest score you can, earning Fame Points which can be used to permanently unlock more features like extra characters and gameplay modes, among other things like cosmetic skins and designs/items for your graveyard. However, the more you play, the deeper the game gets with some very nice mechanics.
Control wise, you’re given two directional buttons and an action button. Depending on your character, the action button is either used for jumping, or attacking. With your default character that is unlocked at the very beginning of the game, it’s used for jumping. Now, the directional buttons might not work exactly how you might think. Your character will always be moving, never coming to a complete stop unless running against the side of the screens. The directional buttons are used to simply change the direction that your character constantly moves in. This means that if you want your character to stay in one place, you’ll need to quickly slide your finger back and forth between the left and right buttons. Luckily, staying in one place isn’t really something that you’ll be trying to do too often.
Two of the three characters will always be attacking, at least in one direction. Your first unlocked character, the Knight, will be able to attack in the direction that he’s facing with his sword. Even though he is holding a shield in his other hand, it’s only cosmetic, and anything that runs into his shield will actually harm him. However, each of the characters do have different attack, defense and luck stats, and the Knight’s defense is the strongest of the three. The second character is the Wizard. She is the only character that, instead of jumping with the action button, attacks with it. When the action button is pressed, she will quickly spin around for a few seconds, killing anything she comes into contact with. There is a short cooling off period after attacks so that you can not just spam the action button and never be harmed, but her attack is also the strongest of the three. The last character you can choose is the Knave. This dual-knife wielding character can attack characters from both sides, meaning that any characters that run into his back will be instantly killed. However, he has the least amount of defense, but the best luck, which does come in handy after the first couple of levels.
Now, you are able to purchase health from the NPC shop character that drops down midway through stages as well as right after every boss battle. But sometimes things just get so hectic that that’s not going to be enough. This is where one of the cooler gameplay mechanics comes into play; silver, gold and all of the little trinkets and diamonds that enemies drop do restore some health. The more rare an item is, the more health it restores. As you build up your hit combo, you’ll eventually hit 30, which starts enemies dropping gold. Build up your combo even more, and they’ll start dropping gold chains, goblets, diamonds and more. Not only are these used to restore a little bit of health, but also help add to your score. Tied in with all of this is your combo’s no-damage multiplier. Kill enemies and keep that combo up, and your multiplier will grow and grow until you do get hit. One hit though, and it’s back to 0x, however, your combo that builds up for gold and item drops keeps building until you do not kill an enemy quickly enough, and the meter empties. It all adds quite a bit of depth and a heavy risk/reward aspect to the gameplay. You’re also able to purchase stronger weapons and special skills from the shop in-game. Though they are not permanent, they will definitely be something you’ll be tossing in-game currency into left and right if you’re a high-score chaser or just want to get further into the game.
There are IAPs included with a currency called Fame Points. But I was able to unlock all three characters, the Advanced Mode (which starts you out at level 80 instead of level 1) and the extra life item (which allows you to keep playing once you’ve lost all of your HP, but resets everything except your current stage progress back to 0) after playing for about 2 hours, which makes it not seem like so much of a grind. My best advice would be to unlock the Knave first, because you can earn more Fame Points with him and his high luck stat. But if you’d rather unlock everything straight away, you can get 5,000 FP for $0.99, 20,000 for $2.99 and 50,000 FP for $5.99. The Wizard is 3,000 FP, Knave is 5,000, Advanced Mode is 8,000, Boss Rush Mode (which is exactly what it sounds like, take on boss after boss until you die) for 10,000 FP and the extra life is 5,000 FP.
Like most other iOS games, Slayin also has a massive amount of quests, or objectives that, once completed, will help you earn some extra currency. Things like ‘Defeat xBOSSx Perfectly’ ‘Get a combo of XX’ ‘Kill XX enemies with XX weapon’ and others. There are 3 different difficulties to the objectives, with the easy ones giving out 50 coins upon completion, the medium ones giving out 150 coins and the hard quests giving you 300 coins. On top of the extra characters and gameplay modes, there are skins for the controls which cost 500-600 FP, and items that you can decorate your fallen hero’s gravestone with, ranging from 500 FP to 5,000 FP per item. These gravestones are visible to your GameCenter friends who also have the game. There are also options for changing the movement buttons to the left side of the screen as well as adding scanlines to the game to give it that ‘official’ old-school vibe. There are 5 leaderboards in GameCenter, one for your highest score, one for each individual character and another for Boss Rush Mode. There are also 23 achievements to help add to the replay value and challenge of the game ranging from ‘Unlock the Knave’ or ‘Unlock the Wizard’ to ‘Finish all quests with the Knight’ ‘Reach Level 100’ ‘Get a combo of 222’ and more.
Slayin, like many iOS games that started out as flash games, is a perfect fit for the iDevice. Games last around 5 minutes, the more you play, the more the game opens up and there’s always going to be a score to chase. Pixel Licker Games has done a fantastic job with Slayin, as well as with porting it over to the touch-screen. The controls are spot on, and the gameplay is incredibly addictive and reminiscent of old-school gaming. I really can not recommend this one enough, as it’s going to be a game that never leaves my phone. Slayin is also Universal, and plays great on the larger iPad screen with it’s very generous touch-spots for the controls. Priced at a buck, it’s definitely a game that every iOS gamer should have in their collection.