IVG App Review Round-up (11/08/12)

This week’s round-up is all about a secret agent infiltrating an enemy base, a mole digging deeper to escape, an epic battle between turtles and goblins, and a lone spaceship facing a massive alien invasion – all vying for your attention. Which one’s worth it and which one’s not? Read on to find out.

By Sameer Desai

Platforms: iOS; Price: $0.99

In Shellrazer’s on-going war between turtles and goblins, your job is to carry your war turtle to the end of each level, decimating wave after wave of goblins that try to get in your way. That’s easier said than done though; goblins come in all shapes and sizes; some on foot, some in the air, others in buildings. They also pack different weapons and take different kinds and amounts of damage.

Your war turtle is well-equipped to handle the goblin menace though. Strapped to its back is a wooden structure that can house three different weapons. You start out with a regular machine gun, but as you progress, you’ll unlock more – a cannon, a shotgun, a mage for magic spells, and an engineer to heal other weapons, just to name a few. There’s different kinds of ammo too which can be applied to each weapon individually. Some will deal damage to ground troops, some to airborne goblins, some to buildings, and others that are a combination of any two.

As you slay goblins and pick up gold, you can then buy items that will help you in your battles. Aside from better, high level ammo, you can also buy one-time-use items that will either let you heal weapons, give temporary invincibility or do massive amounts of damage to enemies. That aside, you can also level up each of your weapons to make them more powerful.

The varying strengths of the enemies and the several weapons you can choose from to fill your three weapon slots bring a fair amount of strategy to the cartoon mayhem. And strategise you must, because even on medium difficulty, Shellrazer is no cakewalk. It is insanely fun though, and the sheer amount of content and depth on offer here should be enough for you to put down 99 cents for it.


Agent Dash
By Amit Goyal

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

Endless-running games have become quite a rage on the App Store after Temple Run revived the genre with its runaway success. The competition, hence, has grown stiffer, and any new release in this sub-genre can only stand out by putting its own spin on the established formula.

So the standard upgrades, the cartoony graphics, the usual obstacles, the challenges that boost the score multiplier and the in-app purchases are all in here. Agent Dash differentiates itself from the competition by eliminating tilt to shift left and right and. Instead, the track has three lanes for the player to switch between in order to avoid obstacles and dead ends, and collect diamonds. The scenery shifts from jungles to towns to enemy bases, each with the usual obstacles, but in different avatars that go with the setting, and are tackled by running, sliding and sideswiping.

It is a unique, if minor, variation on the genre and can keep you interested for a short while. However, the positioning of the camera (close to the player character and low), coupled with the colour palette in certain environments that makes the identification of dead ends difficult at times, makes the game unnecessarily frustrating.

Compounding that are a few minor, but critical, problems. For example, the game does not give you a countdown when you resume the game after it pauses, often leading to collisions. There is also a short, but perceivable, lag between the swipes and the corresponding action on the screen.

Since it is free, there’s no harm in giving it a try. It’s an interesting little twist to the tale, but ultimately forgettable.


Blazing Star
By Rishi Alwani

Platforms: Android, iOS; Price: $2.99
Version tested: Android

There’s aren’t too many things that are new in this game, and that is a good thing. After all, what worked back in 1998 on the Neo Geo and arcade holds up quite well even by today’s standards. Much like most shoot ’em ups, you’re a lone ship up against a massive alien invasion. The presentation holds up quite well, with some great looking sprites and neat levels. With retro-styled games being a rage, Blazing Star fits in just fine.

What ends up being the differentiator is the way you use your ship’s firepower. Here, you can hold down the A button for a charged shot and press B to break it up into smaller bullets of death. There’s a healthy, almost never-ending supply of power-ups as well. From guns that can shoot in all conceivable directions to powerful missiles, there’s a lot to keep the gameplay entertaining.

Where Blazing Star falls short though, is in the controls department. You’d assume a shmup would be best played with the virtual joystick option, but you’ll be on the receiving end of a very sore thumb that’s overworked in order to keep pace with the game’s frenetic pace. While the option to swipe the screen to navigate your ship across worlds of bullet hell exists, it feels unresponsive.

If you’re looking for a throwback to the days when coin-operated machines ruled supreme and are willing to discount lead-heavy controls, you’ll be right at home with SNK’s latest port.


Super Mole Escape
By Sameer Desai

Platforms: iOS; Price: $0.99

Super Mole Escape is another game from the ever-popular endless-running genre, but it puts quite a few interesting spins on the standard formula. Unlike Temple Run and its many clones, this isn’t a 3D game. Neither is it a side-scroller. The closest comparison I can draw to this cartoony 2D game is Jetpack Joyride, except that you’re moving downwards rather than sideways. You play as one of seven upgradeable moles as you dig deep underground through rock, snow and even lava in the hopes of escape from the prison warden.

The warden isn’t your only concern though, as there are several creatures intent on stopping you and obstacles that will either slow you down to propel you in the opposite direction. To balance things out, you have pick-ups along the way in the form of missiles, hammers, speed boosts and shields. Your path is also filled with gems, and aside from collecting them to buy power-ups and upgrade your character, collecting a string of them gives you a temporary power boost; handy when the warden is getting too close for comfort.

The default tilt control scheme works better than the tap-driven alternative, but even that doesn’t feel too intuitive. With your path laden with so many obstacles, the way through is often narrow and the tilt controls don’t seem adequate to pull off those minute alterations in direction. Also, the difference between tilting too little and too much is quite small, so you will tend to lose control from time to time, and the game is quick to punish you when you do. But while that may lead to a few frustrating moments, it’s not nearly bad enough to ruin the experience.

With tons of power-ups to buy and five characters to unlock and level up, Super Mole Escape provides plenty of content to dig through and gives fans of the endless-running genre something a little different than what they’re used to.


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