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IVG App Review Round-up (8/4/13)

In this week’s app review round-up, a classic console JRPG makes the iOS jump with flying colours; the mobile classic, Snake, is reimagined as a pixel-art RPG; Disney returns with another addictive physics puzzler; and we have a new contender in the free-to-play racing games arena.

final-fantasy-5

Final Fantasy V
By Mikhail Madnani

Platforms: iOS; Price: Rs 890

You can now tap enemies and select attacks or spells as opposed to using a direction pad to navigate across things during battles.

Square Enix clearly is investing in mobile gaming. They have companion apps for games like Hitman: Absolution and they’ve also ported the first five Final Fantasy games to iOS along with Chrono Trigger. They even did an original iOS and Android-only Final Fantasy title last year called Final Fantasy Dimensions. While the 3D ports of Final Fantasy DS games like III and IV feel a little clunky, they look spectacular on tablets and phones.

Final Fantasy V is the classic RPG from 1992, which was first available only on the Super Famicom System in Japan. It made it outside Japan on the PlayStation 1 and Gameboy Advance. The visuals have been redone for iOS by the original artist. Sprites are much better looking and each character has a portrait visible while they are speaking. The story begins when the wind in the world slows down, resulting in The King of Tycoon travelling to see the Wind Crystal shatter in front of his eyes. You start the game as Bartz, a young traveller, and his Chocobo, exploring a meteorite crash outside the castle. The story goes on from there, involving you trying to protect the other crystals after visiting the shrine of the Wind Crystal.

What sets Final Fantasy V apart from the rest of the series is its job or class system. You can freely select a job for your character to master to gain special abilities. Characters begin as Freelancers and there are 26 classes or jobs in all. FFIII had something similar, but the system has been revamped in Final Fantasy V. Job levels are earned in addition to experience points and the amount of customisation available for characters is insane.

The controls for are fully touch-optimised and for a 2D game like this, touch controls make more sense. You can now tap enemies and select attacks or spells as opposed to using a direction pad to navigate across things during battles. Movement is done by a dynamic on-screen joystick that appears wherever you touch the screen. While this may not be ideal, the overall feel of the game on a touch screen is really great.

Square Enix usually tries to cash in by releasing separate versions for iPhone and iPad, while charging 5-10 times the price of a typical iOS game. With Final Fantasy IV, they finally released a universal game. Final Fantasy V takes it a step further with near-perfect support for the iPad with Retina Display and iPhone 5 widescreen support.

I’m glad Square Enix is finally not just doing half-assed ports to cash in on nostalgia. FFV even has the bonus content from the GBA version, making this the best version of the game. At Rs 890, the price is much higher than most iOS games, but the 50+ hours of gameplay provided make it well worth it for any fan of the series. If you have never played a Japanese RPG before, start with Chrono Trigger (also on iOS and Android for Rs 550) instead of this one. Final Fantasy V is a cult classic, and Square Enix hasn’t tarnished its legacy one bit with this iOS port.

9/10

nimble-quest

Nimble Quest
By Amit Goyal

Platforms: iOS, Android; Price: Free
Version tested: iOS

Just like Snake, you cannot allow the hero to collide into walls, and in this case, enemies that spawn on screen.

Nimble Quest takes the premise of one of the oldest mobile games from the time when having a mobile phone with a coloured display made you the cool cat of the lot. The game, which everyone must have dug into at some point, is Snakes. Nimblebit takes the idea and turns it into a fast-paced, addictive action RPG, and is giving it away for free to boot. You start each game by choosing a hero out of the available lot. Each hero comes with his or her own offensive move. Apart from heroes from the standard RPG classes such as warrior, mage and rogue, you have heroes like Gizmo, a scientist who attacks with bombs and Bones, and an undead melee fighter.

You start with the hero of your choice and manoeuvre him by swiping in the direction you want him to turn. Movement is automatic and the hero attacks the various enemies that spawn on screen on his own when they are in range. Just like Snake, you cannot allow the hero to collide into walls, and in this case, enemies that spawn on screen. As you kill enemies, they drop loot, which can be diamonds and gold coins, power-ups such as treasure chests, magnets, shields, life potions, or even other heroes. As you accumulate heroes, they form in line behind your lead hero. The more heroes you have, the more formidable your attack.

The game is incredibly fast-paced and very responsive, making each game a very engaging experience in itself. More heroes are collected by completing levels, which get more and more difficult as you go along. Individual heroes can be levelled up either by getting more kills or by using diamonds, making them more proficient. Further, the player can use gold coins to add further buffs to the party at the beginning of each level.

All this, however, bears heavily on IAP, as prices are rather steep for most things. While I am not against the idea of pushing IAPs by increasing the grind value (the game is free, after all), it might end up being prohibitive to all but the die-hard following that the game acquires. The game also has an arena mode, where each game takes up one gold coin. In this mode, the player can join up with a guild or start his own. The number of kills made daily in arena mode count to a global leaderboard of guilds, and the players earn rewards depending on the performance of their guild.

Nimble Quest is worth trying out for its new ideas, fantastic gameplay, and even for its retro pixel graphics, even if progression leans heavily on IAP.

8/10

nitro

Nitro
By Sameer Desai

Platforms: iOS; Price: Free

Track surfaces are a mix of asphalt and dirt and the various cars on offer perform differently on each surface.

Nitro is a free-to-play racing game with real-time multiplayer – that’s about as specific as I can be about it, because there’s really nothing about this game that really jumps out at you as original or unique. It’s a well designed 3D racing game, with controls that are easy to get into, and there’s plenty of content to go through as well. There’s also head-to-head multiplayer with friends and six-player multiplayer lobbies, aside from the rivals that you can take on solo.

The game uses tilt for steering, with virtual controls for throttle and break. There’s also a shot of nitrous that you can use for a speed boost once during a race, and holding long drifts also earns you some instant boost. Tracks look good and they’re well designed with frequent shortcuts. Track surfaces are a mix of asphalt and dirt and the various cars on offer perform differently on each surface. There’s also a comprehensive customisation system to upgrade your car’s look and performance. Cars fall under various classes and the multi-layered upgrades let you improve various parameters, such as speed, acceleration, handling and off-road performance. It’s quite a deep system.

This is a free-to-play game, so upgrades come with wait times, but it’s quite lenient and the currencies that let you skip the wait and to buy new upgrades are doled out quite liberally. I’ve personally never been a fan of tilt controls, but other than that, there’s really not a lot the game does wrong. If you also game on console or PC, you seen everything Nitro has to offer elsewhere, but if an iOS device is your only source for gaming, Nitro is a fun game, right up there with the likes of Asphalt.

7/10

mittens

Mittens
By Amit Goyal

Platforms: iOS; Price: Rs 55

The game is all about timing, and every gameplay mechanic fits in with this core idea that drives the game forward.

Mittens is the newest physics puzzler from Disney, following in the footsteps of the rather fantastic Where’s My Water and Where’s My Perry. Disney does seem to have a knack for the genre, because not only does Mittens match up to those games in presentation, charm, visuals and gameplay, but it is also a great example of how to do a physics puzzler. As I have mentioned in reviews of games like Be Together and Cyto, physics-based puzzles are fast becoming a genre of cobbled together mechanics created out of convenience rather than being part of a single idea. Mittens follows a simple premise – timing. The game is all about that, and every gameplay mechanic fits in with this core idea that drives the game forward.

Mittens is trying to impress a lady kitten, and he must go through a series of levels to acquire the objects of her desire, so that he can join that list as well. Each level requires Mittens to reach a final objective (milk in the first world, balloons in the second). The player has the optional challenge of collecting three diamonds per level. The game is played by manipulating the environment; wooden ledges can be swiped to drop Mittens on to lower platforms; windows can be opened to give him a boost; and antennae can be used as slingshots. As you play further, you enter the circus, which has Mittens being fired out of cannons, flying through rings of fire, and riding roller coasters.

It’s an enjoyable game, where the key is to get the timing of your move right in order to move ahead. The difficulty scales up nicely, with some real head-scratchers later in the game, especially if you are going for all the diamonds in each level. Each world has twenty levels, with an additional five levels that can be unlocked by collecting diamonds. The game comes with 75 levels, with another 25 that can be bought for an additional Rs 55.

The game looks fantastic, with vibrant colours and highly expressive character models. It’s hard not to break into a smile at many of the game’s moments, such as the end of each level when Mittens celebrates. It’s the ideal icing on a very delicious cake.

9/10

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