This week’s mobile reviews includes a taste of Netherrealm Studios’ superhero brawler for your iOS device, an atmospheric and chaotic platformer, a striking physics-based puzzle game, and one of the best tributes to Mario on mobile.
Injustice: Gods Among Us
By Sameer Desai
Platforms: iOS; Price: Free
Injustice on iOS is designed to be complementary to the console experience rather than a substitute for it.
It might carry the same name, but Injustice: Gods Among Us on mobile is nothing like its console counterpart. Also developed by Netherrealm Studios, the mobile version is more simplistic and is designed with the touch interface in mind. Taps for simple attacks; swipes for heavy attacks; holding down two fingers for blocks, and QTE swipes for knowdowns – the game’s control system isn’t the deepest, but this is, after all, a free companion app.
On iOS, this superhero brawler consists solely of three-on-three battles. You’ll start out with three characters, and unlock more along the way. Each character levels up as they gain more XP, and XP collected can be used to level up their individual abilities or to buy new characters. There are also booster packs that give characters additional powers, but most of these are tied to in-app purchases. As is customary with freemium games nowadays, you’ll only be able to play for a while before the characters run out of energy, prompting you to either wait for it to replenish over time, or to purchase some. The amount of energy used up per fight also increases as you play, so the deeper into the game you get, the more frequent these waits will become.
Unlike the console game, Injustice on iOS doesn’t feature interactive environments or multi-level stages, which is a little disappointing. Also unlike the console games, this version adopts a slightly angular perspective rather than a fully side-on camera view. The controls are responsive for most part, but pulling off a block right after a flurry of attacks doesn’t always work, leaving you open to damage. The ability to swap characters regularly does add some variety to the battles and can be a useful tactic against bosses, which are thrown at you at the end of each group of ladder-style battles.
Injustice: Gods Among Us on iOS is designed to be complementary to the PS3 and Xbox 360 experience rather than a substitute for it, and as long as you approach it as such, it’s a nice distraction, especially if you’re into the DC universe.
By Amit Goyal
Platforms: iOS; Price: Rs 220
The controls feel raw and imprecise, and you never get the feeling of skilfully navigating the environment.
Badland is the kind of game you would want by just looking at its screenshots. It has a great visual style going for it, with a silhouette-like gameplay world that resembles Limbo a great deal, and colourful backgrounds of an unearthly wilderness that draws you. Gameplay, however, can be a mixed bag.
The controls are simple and intuitive; you have to guide a furry little gnome with arms across a level with contraptions such as gears, falling rocks, fan blades, and bombs that can easily reduce you to dust. Touching the screen makes your character fly, and releasing it makes him fall. Along the way, you can pick up some interesting power-ups. Apart from those that make you speed up and slow down, there are power-ups that make your character smaller or bigger, or even create clones. This works very well with the levels, as often you need to be of a certain size to pass through a narrow opening. Similarly, obstacle impact varies with how big or small you are (try flying into a bomb in your pint-size avatar, for example). Some levels may require you to send some of your clones on a branching path to collect a power-up or trigger some change in the environment to open a path so that the rest can survive. At the end of each level, the player is judged on how quickly he got to the end, and how many clones he survived with.
The controls to reach that end, however, can be exasperating. They feel raw and imprecise, and you never get the feeling of skilfully navigating the environment. Instead, you go rolling, stumbling, crashing, and even raging at your device. For me, the biggest frustration with Badland was never quite figuring out how to play better. Instead, it’s a whole lot of chaos that takes a lot away from the single-player experience.
In multiplayer, however, the chaos works to the players’ advantage. The game features local competitive multiplayer, where up to four players can race to the end of a level on the same device. At the end of the level, the players are scored on their position and the number of clones that made it to the end. The same staggering, confused gameplay comes in handy here and is great for getting some kicks with your friends, making this an easy recommendation if you intend to get enough use out of the multiplayer component.
By Sameer Desai
Platforms: iOS; Price: Rs 55
The gameplay mechanics may sound too familiar, but its Stay Alight’s striking visuals that will really draw you in.
Stay Alight is a physics-based puzzler with a core mechanic that is similar to that of Angry Birds. You, Mr Bulb, must shoot balls of light at green bacteria-like creatures across a level to clear it. You have limited projectiles at your disposal and, like in Angry Birds, must drag your finger across the screen to determine the arc, distance and power of your throw. You also have different kinds of projectiles that behave differently on impact, and you also have objects, like movable blocks and explosive barrels, that will aide you in your efforts.
All of this may sound too familiar, but its Stay Alight’s striking visuals that will really draw you in. The game world is desolate and eerie, and yet quite beautiful in its design. Levels are often built around objects that have seen better days – the cracked doll head or a dusty yellow rubber duck. There’s also a neon-sign theme running throughout the game, which is quite unique.
There’s are a few unique gameplay elements thrown in as well. In the later puzzles, Mr Bulb’s friend, who is also a bulb, will appear on the opposite side of the level. You can then toss your projectiles to him and let him target enemies that may be out of your reach. Also unlike Angry Birds, Mr Bulb will be placed in different parts of each level, but this often works against the game. While Angry Birds has you draw your throw arc in the opposite direction of your target, here, you’re doing it towards it and you’ll often obstruct your view with your own finger. Moreover, if Mr Bulb is placed too close to the edge of the screen, this could hinder your ability to get the exact amount of height and power behind your throw as it will only allow you a certain amount of movement before your finger moves off the screen.
These couple of issues sour the experience a bit and lead to some frustration, but Stay Alight is still a game that I would recommend. It isn’t the most original game, but there’s enough gameplay variety to keep you playing, and the detailed presentation is a fantastic bonus.
The Other Brothers
By Mikhail Madnani
Platforms: iOS; Price: Rs 110
The Other Brothers is a unique tribute to the old Mario games.
I’m kind of annoyed with every second mobile game claiming to be retro and the best platformer ever. Many have promised and under delivered. Luckily, The Other Brothers in its latest form on iOS is a great gaming experience. 3D Attack revealed it a while ago and I was intrigued from the start. It pays tribute to old school Mario games. Upon launch, the game was plagued with control issues, but with the latest update that hit a few days ago, this game shines.
You play as Joe or Jim in an insane adventure in junkyards (Earthworm Jim, anyone?) and sewers to save the quintessential damsel in distress. The game begins with the brothers witnessing a mob kidnap a red-haired woman. The game also borrows from Sonic The Hedgehog’s rings concept, except here they’re pigeons. If you get attacked, pigeons fly away and if you don’t have any pigeons, you die. The visuals are all pixel art barring the text, which looks completely out of place during the tutorial. You kill enemies by jumping on them and you can pick up tool box power-ups, among other things, to attack with. The latest update brings customisable control support with a floating directional pad and iCade support. Most platformers support iCade controllers through Bluetooth and the implementation here is great. I played through levels easily using my iCade 8-Bitty and it was an awesome experience.
The Other Brothers is a unique tribute to the old Mario games. It is fun to play and does not have any in-app purchases. It is sad that it has actually become necessary to mention that in a game review thanks to games like Real Racing 3. The Other Brothers has a great original chiptune soundtrack as well. If you are a fan of platformers and love pixel art, do yourself a favour and pick this one up on the App Store.