IVG App Review Round-up (24/11/12)

A busy last few weeks have meant that our weekend app round-up has been MIA for a while, but we’re back this week with a little something for everyone.

Totem Runner
by Amit Goyal

Platforms: iOS; Price: Rs 55

The first thing you will notice about Totem Runner is its gorgeous art. It’s not revolutionary in any way, but the way it combines shadows, light and colours to bring about an otherworldly feeling to the entire game is remarkable.

More than that, Totem Runner is an excellent game. It is both challenging and fun, and brings its own unique idea to the mobile platformer genre. The titular protagonist is tasked with reviving the land by using his mystical powers and planting flowers as he runs automatically across the level.

The player has to keep a button pressed in order to plant flowers. However, you cannot jump or slide to manoeuvre across the level. Instead, the player can transform into three types of animals by holding down a button assigned to each – a wild boar, an eagle and a dragon. The boar can mow down thick vegetation and enemies; the eagle can be used to fly across chasms or above certain obstacles; and the dragon can be activated only after collecting 50 gems (scattered across level). The dragon transports the player from one checkpoint to another, dealing with all obstacles and planting flowers automatically. When transformed into either the eagle or the boar, the player cannot plant flowers. So the challenge is not only to get across the level, but to earn the best possible rating.

It all comes together for some very compelling gameplay, and you will go back to the levels again and again until you earn the best rating. The only downside is the lack of content. The game features only 18 levels, which will not take too long once you get the hang of it. But nothing beats the awesomeness of soaring across a difficult length of chasm as an eagle, and then dropping down to the ground as a wild boar to annihilate a bunch of archers and monsters.

9/10

Carmageddon
by Amit Goyal

Platforms: iOS; Price: Rs 110

For those of you who can’t help but grin and remember how satisfying it was to get a splatter bonus at the very mention of Carmageddon: Yes, it’s back, and in all its glory! The unapologetic violence and the irresistible madness has not been curbed in any manner, and neither have any attempts been made to “improve” the game. This is Carmageddon the way you remember it and the way you love it.

I should end the review here and move on, but for those unfamiliar with the game and confused by the nostalgic exposition till this point, Carmageddon is a 1997 vehicular combat game known for its extreme brutality by encouraging players to run over pedestrians (and making it a really fun thing to do!). Each race can be won in three ways – reaching the finish line first by going through all checkpoints (meh!), wasting all opponents, or killing all the pedestrians in the level. It doesn’t take long for this game to transform from a racing game to a virtual playground, where the race is forgotten and the players are more concerned with doing awesome stunts, crashing into opponents, and finding cows and old ladies to mow down.

The only problem with the port is the clunky controls. The game does not feature any tilt or swipe based controls, instead relying on virtual buttons, which are often quite irritating to deal with. The controls, combined with the nature of the game, makes it worthwhile only for the fans of the series, or for those looking for a throwback to the games of the 90s. Carmageddon, for better or for worse, is an iconic game that has its bloodied hand in shaping the gaming industry, and is worth checking out for that.

8/10

Need for Speed: Most Wanted
by Avinash Bali

Platforms: iOS, Android; Price: Rs 270, Rs 250
Version tested: iOS

While Criterion were busy with Most Wanted on PC and consoles, developer FireMonkeys (Real Racing) have taken it upon themselves to churn out the iOS and Android versions of the game (in collaboration with Criterion). And they’ve done a bang up job of it.

Like most racers on tablets/smartphones today, cars in Most Wanted accelerate automatically, while you steer them. You can do so either by tapping left or right on your surface or using the game’s tilt functionality. I’m not a big fan of tilt in racing games, but it’s been handled so well in this game that I actually preferred it.

The game is structured similar to its console counterpart, which means you’ll have to race a whole lot of people to move up the Most Wanted list and evade cops while you’re at it. It even retains the game’s social aspects, whereby you can compare your times with those of your friends across all platforms, Android included. You can even transfer your Speed Points from the handheld version to the console version and vice versa, and that’s a cool touch.

Most Wanted is like a breath of fresh air and it definitely warrants a purchase. It looks good, plays good and is perfect for that bite-sized gaming session on the go.

8/10

He-Man: The Most Powerful Game in the Universe
by Amit Goyal

Platforms: iOS; Price: Rs 55

The punchline of masculinity has sneaked his way on to the App Store. Very few people (at least in my age group) would be unfamiliar with He-Man. So years after watching cartoons and owning action figures, here’s a chance to own the most powerful game in the universe for a price that is marginally lower than what the action figures used to cost back in the day. Take that, inflation!

On the story front, the game is all over the place. I completely lost interest from the get-go, the moment I saw Skeletor holding an iPad in his hand and probably threatening He-Man with it. Who knows? Maybe he finally wants to make it official.

The nonsensical plot sets up a series of side-scrolling, combat-heavy levels that He-Man must chase Skeletor through. The gameplay is standard 2D adventure fare, where the player must jump across platforms and hammer on enemies with his sword to get across. Occasionally, the game throws in a twist such fluctuating lava pools and rising acid levels in a vertical level on one occasion. The game also throws Skeletor’s minions, such as Beastman and Merman, at you from time to time that serve as the game’s bosses. They pose a challenge in requiring some form of evasion before they can be punched on.

The controls are an interesting hybrid of virtual buttons and touch based controls. The game is played in landscape mode, where swiping to the left half of the screen makes He-Man move, and the right half is used for attacks and jumping. Swiping up makes He-Man jump, and tapping the screen makes him attack. The lack of buttons allows for better control, but somehow these controls haven’t been balanced well enough with the animations. The end result is a game that might feel a bit clunky or floaty at times.

The in-game currency allows the player to upgrade and improve He-Man’s arsenal of moves, and even purchase one-time use items such as the Power of Grey-Skull or the ability to call on Man-at-Arms for a few seconds.

At its core, the game is a very generic 2D adventure game skinned with He-Man. It looks fine and it plays fine, but it certainly cannot stake its claim as the most powerful game in the universe. Not even close.

6/10

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