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IVG App Review Round-up (01/12/12)

In this week’s mobile games round-up, two massive pop culture franchises come together, a mobile zombie shooter done right, proof that love (and hate too) can move mountains, and a refreshing take on the endless-running genre.

Angry Birds: Star Wars
by Amit Goyal

Platforms: iOS, Android, Windows Mobile; Price: Rs 55 (iOS, Windows), Free (Android)/ Rs 163.10 (Android HD version)
Version tested: iOS

What do we get when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? Apart from a fantastic Batman movie – Angry Birds: Star Wars.

Angry Birds, and its gameplay, needs no introduction, and neither does Star Wars and its impact on pop culture and geek mythos over the past couple of decades. You really have to be living in a bottomless pit on a faraway planet in some forgotten corner of the galaxy to not have heard these two massively popular names.

So instead of getting into the basics, let us talk about how well the two franchises come together. Rovio did an excellent job with the Rio integration, and this one fairs just as well. For starters, it may just seem like a mash-up of the classic formula and Angry Birds: Space, but the similarities end the moment the pigs take on the avatar of Storm Troopers, and the base bird in Angry Birds starts dishing out incredible damage with light-sabers.

All aspects of Star Wars, such as the force and even classic characters, have been well integrated into the game. And with the additional firepower, the level design has evolved to present a real challenge, especially as you go further. Getting three stars in all the levels will take some lateral thinking, and with no dearth of content and more to come with future updates, the force is strong with this one (clichéd, I know).

8/10

Apocalypse Max: Better Dead than Undead
by Amit Goyal

Platforms: iOS; Price: Rs 55

Apocalypse Max has all the makings of a generic side-scrolling action game; for one, the enemies are zombies, something which gamers never seem to get tired of shooting. The protagonist goes through a series of side scrolling levels, mowing down an army of zombies with the standard range of guns, along with some mild platforming thrown in. Heck, it even controls with virtual buttons.

But what pushes it many notches above mundane is how well everything controls and feels. Be it the precision while jumping, the smoothness with which the auto-aim works, or the satisfying feel of each of the weapons, the game is a blast to play (quite literally!).

To keep things interesting, there is a lot of variety in the enemies that you encounter. The weapons are also upgradable, and the ammo, while not scarce, is still economical, forcing the player to approach various situations with the appropriate weapon. A slightly lean patch can be tackled with a shotgun or even a pistol, but you will need the fire rate of the SMG or rifle when enemies spawn from all directions. And if things get too hectic, you can always rely on grenades to pull you out of a tight spot. The player can also use a knife by swiping on the screen if the ammo gets scarce. If I have to hold something against it, it would be that the game feels a bit too easy on the standard difficulty level, but that is also covered by the inclusion of higher difficulty levels.

Apocalypse Max does not try its hand at something revolutionary, but it has polished the tried and tested formula to a level where it is an absolute joy to play.

9/10

About Love, Hate and the Other Ones
by Amit Goyal

Platforms: iOS; Price: Rs. 55

With an intriguing name such as this, you would expect a game that is equally imaginative, and About Love, Hate and the Other Ones does not disappoint.

The puzzle game features two central characters – Love and Hate, whom the player can switch between at any time during levels. The objective of each level is to navigate to a giant red button, which when pressed by either character, teleports Love, Hate and the button to the next level. Love and Hate can be moved by tapping a location on the screen, and while they can jump up to a level, they cannot traverse across deep gaps.

This is where the other ones come in – mindless creatures who seem to exist only for the affection (or rejection) of the two quirky characters. Love has the ability to draw the other ones to him when made to coo “I love you” in a sappy manner. Hate, on the other hand, can make the other ones move away by hissing “I hate you” in their direction. By manipulating the other ones, the player can move the characters closer to the red button across increasingly complex levels.

It is a refreshingly new idea, driven by quirky characters and a pleasing art style. It may not impress with its gameplay immediately, but as you go further, you’ll find yourself sucked into this rather simplistic, yet charming depiction of how love (and even hate) can move mountains, or at least creatures that look like them.

8/10

Endless Road
by Sameer Desai

Platforms: iOS; Price: Rs 55

If you’re making an endless running/driving/flying game these days, you’re going to have to do something pretty damn unique to make it stand out. Endless Road has got that covered. You control a car on a three-lane road as the game plays out from an isometric view. The key to success is maintaining a speed of 80 mph as you weave from lane to lane, which is easier said than done. Too slow and you fall into nothingness as the road drops off behind you; too fast and you won’t be able to see far enough ahead to negotiate the game’s many challenges. There are speed pads to go faster and brake pads that slow you down and you’ll have to regulate your speed using a combination of the two. Then of course, there are obstacles, traffic vehicles and cops to complicate matters further.

Like most endless running games, if you die, you start at the very beginning, and the incentive to keep playing comes from unlocks and power-ups which you can buy after picking up enough coins on the road. You can buy four kinds of power-ups – nitro for a speed boost; slow motion to make traffic manageable; the jump to negotiate barriers, and the bomb to remove all vehicles in the vicinity. You get one power-up for each attempt, so using it at the right time is vital. Once you have enough coins, you can also buy better cars. By default, the game world is refreshing white, while you car, the speed pads, and certain barriers stand out in red (it’s very Mirror’s Edge), but with enough coins, you can change the game world to other colours too.

Endless Road has a lot going for it, but the angular isometric view always made me feel removed from the action. And I was playing on the iPad; I can only imagine what the experience must be like on the smaller iPhone screen. I would also have liked if the game had a more effective way of letting me know if I was going too fast or slow since that’s pretty much what the game comes down to. And while the minimalist art style is refreshing, it doesn’t quite hold in a genre like this, where you’d like to see some visual pay-off when you manage to pass a new milestone.

Endless Road isn’t an easy game, but fans of the genre will get a kick out of it, especially those that like a challenge. For everyone else, the pay-off for starting the game over and over in an attempt to better your high score simply isn’t big enough for you to bother beyond an hour or so.

6/10

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