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IVG App Review Round-up (1/4/13)

In this week’s mobile games round-up, we have a minimalist endurance game where you shoot small circles at large circles, a new spin on the ever-popular endless running formula, an iconic old-school favourite making his endless running debut, and yet another console franchise making the move to mobile.

mini-ninjas

Mini Ninjas
By Sameer Desai

Platforms: iOS; Price: Rs 55

Remember Mini Ninjas, IO Interactive’s brief detour from the homicidal escapades of Kane, Lynch and 47? In the midst of a franchise expansion that includes last year’s Kinect spin-off and an upcoming animated TV series, Mini Ninjas is now on iOS. But unlike the 2009 console/PC title, neither is this one developed by IO, nor is it a third-person action-adventure game. It is, in fact, (cue gasp) an endless runner, the now default genre for bringing console and PC action franchises to mobile.

Tapping on the right lets Hiro hack through enemies and certain obstacles in his path. It’s a distinctly un-ninja-like approach.

It isn’t a total departure from its origins though. You still play as Hiro, with the ability to don the role of his friends, with their own unique abilities, from time to time. And much like the suits in Jetpack Joyride, once you die, you turn back into Hiro. Gameplay involves tapping on the left of the screen to jump and occasionally wall-run to avoid obstacles, while tapping on the right lets Hiro hack through enemies and certain obstacles in his path. It’s a distinctly un-ninja-like approach.

Mini Ninjas allows for a host of customisation and crafting options, which are tied to the Kuji energy that you pick up along the way. Accessing the Dojo lets you purchase costumes and craft potions and power-ups, which give the game more longevity, but have little impact on how it plays out. I was a little disappointed by the game’s visuals. I remember the original PC game most of all for its art style and pretty environments, and that should have been relatively easy to replicate in a side-scroller such as this. Instead the mobile version looks rather generic and not quite at the level you’d expect on the Retina display.

There’s nothing wrong with Mini Ninjas’ mobile outing, but it does nothing to stand out in the increasingly crowded endless running genre either. It’s enjoyable enough for a few sessions when you first purchase it, but it won’t have you coming back to it a week later.

5/10

puk

Puk
By Mikhail Madnani

Platforms: iOS, Android; Price: Rs 55
Version tested: iOS

Puk just released on the App Store and Google Play, and it’s a great endurance test of a game.

The concept is simple. You have to shoot small pucks with arrows on them onto larger pucks or spheres with an X on them. Each big puck is different. Some need multiple hits with a small puck and others are placed behind obstructions. The main game involves white pucks on an orange background and there are boss levels that are black colour and they need to be completed very fast.

The concept is simple. You have to shoot small pucks with arrows on them onto larger pucks with an X on them.

There is a divider between your pucks and your targets, and it also acts as a timer. As time progresses, the divider starts closing and finally becomes a solid wall. All pucks left on the wrong side of the divider can then only be moved by shaking your smartphone. This bit felt clunky because the sensitivity is too low. Levels get insanely difficult as you progress and you are awarded medals if you finish them within a certain time.

Laser Dog has created a near-perfect casual mobile game. If you’re on iOS, it has Game Center achievements and you can share your score to Twitter as well. It may be a little difficult playing this on a device with on-screen buttons because sliding the puck to shoot may cause an inadvertent button press closing the game.

8/10

sonic-dash

Sonic Dash
By Sameer Desai

Platforms: iOS; Price: Free

As I mentioned in my Mini Ninjas review above, endless running seems to be the default genre for bringing console franchises to mobiles, but if there’s one that truly seems like it would be at home as an endless runner, it’s Sonic.

This is Sonic on autopilot, with only the occasional need to jump making this a far cry from the franchise’s platforming origins.

Sonic Dash is a third-person endless runner in the vein of Temple Run. The blue hedgehog runs automatically, while you dodge obstacles across three lanes, picking up coins, speeding through loops, and leaping across gaps along the way. You can also perform Sonic’s trademark spin dash to knock off enemies from time to time. The challenge comes from the game’s blistering pace and the risk of losing all collected rings if you die, but the game does offer some respite in the form of gates located at the end of each section. Pass through a gate labelled with a ring and all the rings collected so far will get banked.

Collected rings can be used to purchase power-ups and other playable characters from the Sonic universe. The visuals are distinctly Sonic – green grass, bright blue skies, recognisable crab enemies, and gold rings as far as the eye can see. The music too is a throwback to the old games. In making this an endless runner though, that’s where the similarities to old Sonic games end. This is Sonic on autopilot, with only the occasional need to jump making this a far cry from the franchise’s platforming origins.

Sonic Dash was initially released as a paid game and it was plagued by some seriously poor obstacle placement, with frequent, unavoidable deaths leading to lots of frustration. Since then, the obstacle placement has been improved and the game is now free. The latest patch also introduces daily challenges alongside the objectives that are tied to various milestones.

Sonic Dash isn’t a particularly original endless-runner, but its sense of speed is welcome and brings with it a certain amount of challenge. It feels like a lost opportunity though, sticking firmly to the tried and tested Temple Run formula, rather than attempting to make it a fitting Sonic game for mobiles, like Ubisoft did with Rayman: Jungle Run.

6/10

le-vamp

Le Vamp
By Amit Goyal

Platforms: iOS; Price: Rs 110

Little vampires like to go out and play, which isn’t quite as appealing a proposition to the villagers looking for a quiet, uneventful night of sleeping. Pandemonium ensues, out come the pitchforks, and our protagonist, Le Vamp, is on the run from the angry village horde.

Your task is to manipulate the environment using contextual actions to ensure Le Vamp can run as far as possible.

As the player, your task is to manipulate the environment using contextual actions to ensure Le Vamp can run as far as possible before his pursuers catch up to him. So trees must be cut by horizontal swipes over water. Beasts of the jungle must be subdued by upwards or downwards swipes before Le Vamp reaches them so that they can be overcome. Pumpkins must be smashed by finger taps and blood pigs must be fed to Le Vamp by flicking them in his path should you not perform the above tasks too well.

There are coins to collect too, and the game has a rather extensive store for you to splurge in. Apart from score multipliers and health upgrades and power-ups (to slow down time, make Le Vamp flym etc), there are some nifty moves for you to pick up, such as the ability to swipe to collect coins and the ability to make pigs eat coins which you can then collect by flicking the pig to Le Vamp.

The game scores you for all actions performed, and progression through the game with improved abilities and pick-ups has been done well. However, one big gripe with is that the obstacles exist standalone and do not belong to one particular family, with a specific action (or non-action, as you play onwards) tied to each one of them. The problem arises when the game picks up pace. Obstacles come at a breakneck pace, and performing the wrong action on any obstacle might just spell doom for you. It comes across as a little unfair at times, especially when different types of obstacles are stacked up one after the other and one wrong gestures leads to further wrong gestures like falling dominos.

The game is quite a looker, with vibrant colours, cartoony graphics and smooth animations. The character models are a bit bland though, especially with the enemies. All in all, Le Vamp is a fun game with a new approach to the genre. It could have used a little more tuning, but it is well worth checking out.

7/10

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