In this week’s mobile review round-up, a genre-defining endless runner, a popular motorcycle platformer, free-to-play side-scrolling shooter mayhem, and a unique puzzle game about circles and numbers.
Temple Run 2
By Amit Goyal
Platforms: iOS, Android (Jan 24); Price: Free
Version tested: iOS
I am not even going to make the effort of building this review up to this verdict, considering how much effort iMangi put in making the sequel to one of the biggest hits in mobile gaming. Temple Run 2 is as uninspired as it is unbalanced, and as far as endless runners go, it has completely fallen behind on what its contemporaries offer.
TR2 features new shiny graphics, set in a temple world suspended in the sky. The visuals, with markedly improved textures, pose a new problem with their washed out look. Small environmental details, on which the player might stumble, are sometimes not even apparent. The fast gameplay of Temple Run was punctuated by the clearly distinct look that its obstacle had. If iMangi has done this on purpose, the speed of the game should have also been adjusted accordingly.
The other problem is brought about by the crests and troughs on the path that you run on. Because of this, the end of the road sometimes simply seems like a coming slope, and you end up falling off the edge. This is again a case of poor design that traded substance for flash.
Beyond these problems, TR2 is just Temple Run re-skinned, and that is my biggest problem with the game. The controls are exactly the same. The power-ups are exactly the same. Hell, they have even rehashed some of sound effects from the old game. The game does feature an occasional mine cart segment to break the monotony, but considering how run-of-the-mill it is, and coupled with the general sameness of the entire game, it never quite feels as aspiring.
Temple Run was a genre-defining game that spawned countless me-toos. It is rather unfortunate to see the sequel not only fall into the same trap, but also give up with such a faint whimper.
Joe Danger Touch
By Sameer Desai
Platforms: iOS; Price: Rs 170
If you were to simplify the gameplay in the console versions of Joe Danger into simply a series of quick-time events, you’d get something like Joe Danger Touch. On consoles, it was an unlikely but intriguing mix of Trials and Mario. It was cute and colourful but by no means easy.
After two console releases, the game is now on iOS (soon on Android too, apparently), and as so many crossover franchises like to do when they move to mobile, it takes away control over acceleration. Instead, you’re required to use touch and swipe controls to jump, double-jump, duck, perform wheelies, change lanes, and collect various coins and pick-ups as you move through the game’s many obstacle course-like levels.
Aside from Joe himself, there are several other characters to unlock, and while they’re all just cosmetic, the game does force you to use your hard-earned in-game currency on them because certain bonus levels are locked to an unlockable character. Several levels are chunked together into multiple groups based on difficulty and while most levels are just about completing objectives by yourself, the last level in each group has you racing an AI opponent. This seems like fun, until you see the terrible AI rubberbanding, which ensures that no matter how well or poorly you negotiate the course, your opponent will always finish close to you.
I had issues with the implementation of certain controls. For example, you’re required to swipe from right to left to make Joe perform a wheelie, but that only happens once you lift your finger off the screen, which seems counter-intuitive. That aside, Joe Danger Touch is a fun game and the developers have done well to thoughtfully adapt it to mobile devices. Unlike its console predecessors, its one-touch controls and cheery art style make it ideal for short game sessions. In doing that, however, it takes away one of the fundamental components that made the console games such a challenge – the ability to alter your bike’s speed. So approach this as a different take on the Joe Danger franchise as opposed to a reflection of what it offers on consoles. The two are poles apart.
Storm the Train
By Amit Goyal
Platforms: iOS; Price: Free
Storm the Train came to our attention when it was recently updated a week ago. While it released in October, the game is far too much fun to not warrant a mention.
Storm the Train is exactly what its name promises – a 2D side-scrolling shooter, where you choose one from three characters and drop onto a train to take on hordes of enemies using a wide array of weapons. The three characters’ health is inversely proportional to their speed of movement, so the player can pick the one which suits their play-style. Apart from shooting hordes of enemies, which get tougher progressively as you play onwards, the standard shooting sequences are broken up by a variety of special events to break the monotony. These include boss battles, saving hostages, survival challenges, and riding vehicles such as jetpacks (which controls and plays exactly like Jetpack Joyride) and a cylindrical vehicle of death. Add to that a wide variety of weapons and special power-ups that grant the player extra health or helpful gadgets, and the game sports an array of features that add up for some explosive gameplay.
The game looks great with three vivid worlds: Undead, Future and Oriental, which the player travels through by jumping from train to train. Apart from each environment using a distinctively different colour palette, the enemies are also different and go well with the theme of the world. In the undead world, for example, there’s every chance that a corpse might become reanimated after you kill it.
The game is free, and depends on IAP to earn its livelihood. Each character’s weapons, powers and gadgets are upgradeable up to multiple levels, which requires coins. Additionally, new objects are unlocked in the store as the player completes specific missions and earns stars. However, the IAP has been implemented in an unobtrusive way, and Storm the Train is a must-have for any person who owns an iOS device.
By Sameer Desai
Platforms: iOS; Price: Rs 270
Like so many great puzzle games, Hundreds takes a simple concept and weaves some fiendish challenges around it. The very first level begins with a blank white screen, a small red circle in the middle, a big faint zero in the background, and no instructions. As you touch the circle, you notice it gets bigger and the number increases. When you hit 100, the level is complete.
As you move through the levels, you’ll encounter multiple red circles that each need to be grown till their combined count hits 100. Things get tricky when you realise that if the circle you’re currently growing happens to come in contact with another object, it’s game over. And there will be several other objectives introduced as you keep playing. There are slider pebbles that you can either move around to nudge the red circles to your preferred part of the screen or to block the circles into one corner. There are spikes that will deflate circles that come into contact with them, thus resetting their counts to zero. Some circles start with a negative count rather than zero, requiring you to first deflate them before you can count upwards. This might make the game sound like a maths puzzle, but it’s got more to do with timing and hand-eye co-ordination than addition and subtraction.
I loved the game’s clean and minimalistic art style. The use of only red, white, grey and black works brilliantly to keep your focus on the puzzle and the accompanying soundtrack is distinctive, yet it’s calming and doesn’t get in the way of puzzle-solving. While this is a one-touch game for most-part, there are certain levels that require you to hold down two circles simultaneously. This may still be achieved with one hand on the iPhone, but it requires two hands on the larger iPad screen, which isn’t a problem, but it is a little annoying to have to put down the device for the odd puzzle.
Hundreds is one of the most unique puzzle games on the iOS platform, and as simple as its core concept is, the new elements that it constantly introduces and the various combinations in which they are deployed makes for puzzles that are always forcing you to come up with new ways to solve them, while at the same time constantly ramping up in difficulty. If you enjoy a challenge, take this one up. But as much as I’d like to recommend this to everyone, at Rs 270, puzzle fans may be the only ones who will realise its full value.