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IVG App Review Round-up (22/09/12)

By the end of last week, Super Hexagon had put us through so much shame and humiliation that we just couldn’t get ourselves to write anything. But we’re back this week, with no less than a positive review for Super Hexagon, which goes to show who the bigger person in this is. Read on to find your mobile gaming fix this week.

Wild Blood
By Avinash Bali

Platforms: iOS; Price: $6.99

Wild Blood is Gameloft’s answer to Infinity Blade – visually at least. It’s the first game from the mobile game developer to use the Unreal 3 Engine and it looks gorgeous. The beauty does come at a price though as I experienced a few slow-downs on my humble iPad 2.

As far as gameplay is concerned, Wild Blood is your run-of-the mill hack and slash RPG like Fable or the more recent, Reckoning: Kingdoms of Amalur. You are Lancelot, one of the Knights of the Round Table, who must protect Guinevere, your love, against the now mad King Arthur. Oh, and did I mention, Guinevere is King Arthur’s wife, so shame on you! Anyway, upon finding out about your affair, King Arthur loses his marbles and commands his sorceress to unleash the hordes of hell upon his own kingdom. This is where your adventure begins.

Gameloft’s presentation is top notch, but the game really falters in the control department. Unlike a game like Infinity Blade that concentrated on single opponents at a time, Wild Blood is a third-person action adventure, where you’ll almost always encounter multiple opponents. It’s nice that you can deal with them using melee, magical and ranged attacks, but the problem arises (unsurprisingly) with the game’s control scheme. Like so many third person games on tablets/smartphones, you’ll tear your hair out in frustration trying to deal with and control the rubbish camera at all times (exploration included). This becomes near unbearable during boss fights, where you die more often than not because of the shabby controls rather than your evading skills. Virtual controllers should just die a slow, painful death.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should completely ignore Wild Blood. It’s a visually appealing game that offers plenty of bang of your buck. You have been warned, however, about the rather unfortunate control scheme.

7/10

Rail Rush
By Amit Goyal

Platforms: iOS, Android; Price: $0.99 (iOS), Free (Android)
Version tested: iOS

Rail Rush is the newest entry in the now omnipresent genre of endless running games, except in Rail Rush, you don’t run. Instead, you roll in a rickety mine cart through a vibrant and colourful mineshaft, navigating obstacles and collecting gold nuggets and gems as you go along.

For those familiar with the genre, there aren’t any surprises here. There are three tracks to switch between, with the standard swipe controls (left/right to switch tracks, up to jump and down to duck) to navigate. In addition, the player can lean left or right by tilting their device in order to collect gold nuggets that can be spent in the shop for cart upgrades, consumable items and additional characters.

Rail Rush is a beautiful game, with excellent use of colours in designing the various segments of the mineshaft. The game also has tiered objectives for levelling up, similar to Jetpack Joyride. However, the experience simple isn’t as compelling due to nature of the objectives. They lack variation and mostly focus on grinding, which makes completing them feel more like a pain than an achievement. A more thoughtful approach towards the objectives would have done wonders for this game. The game also feels unbalanced, with a start to every run that is a tad too slow, and the cart accelerating after the 2,500 meters mark a little too quickly.

The game also features an IAP (in-app purchase) system, where you can buy additional gold nuggets, but in a refreshing change, the IAP never feels necessary for progressing ahead. In addition, the extra characters are not just a skin change, but bring their own unique advantages to the game. If you are hankering for a Jetpack Joyride fix in a new skin, Rail Rush is your game. The game has the ability to initially vow you, but it doesn’t take long before the cracks start to show.

6/10

Super Hexagon
By Sameer Desai

Platforms: iOS; Price: $0.99

Super Hexagon has the highest game-over-screen-per-minute ratio of any game I’ve ever played. The longest I’ve lasted in one session of this game before being greeted with a Game Over screen is 30 seconds. I don’t know if this game was made this impossibly hard because there’s not much of it to play through or if this is a case of developer Terry Cavanagh doing it simply because he could. All I know is that despite the game constantly reminding me of what a failure I am at it, I kept going back.

That has partly to do with its fantastic soundtrack. The game recommends that you play it with earphones on, and you really should because the pulsating chiptune sounds immerse you into the game like you wouldn’t believe.

I imagine Super Hexagon is a claustrophobe’s worst nightmare. The object of the game is to manoeuvre yourself – denoted by a tiny triangle in the middle of the screen – sideways to avoid hexagonal walls that keep closing in at a rapid pace. There’s always at least one open space in the wall for you to manoeuvre into, but often there’s only one and getting to it is rarely easy. Movement is controlled by tapping on the left or right side of the screen, depending on which side you want to move. And as if the game wasn’t frantic enough already, the super-sensitive touch controls mean that you’ll sometimes move more than you would like to, making things even harder. And oh, the entire screen is constantly spinning around you. It’s like an app designed to induce seizures.

Visuals are as basic as they get, comprised of only a black screen with fluorescent coloured hexagons; a style similar to Cavanagh’s previous game VVVVVV. The visuals work because even as basic as they are, there’s always plenty going on on-screen.

Super Hexagon is a shallow game and even its official website calls it ‘minimal’, but there are far deeper experiences on the App Store that I have spent a lot less time playing. It may annoy and frustrate you, but at the same time, it finds a way to teach you to get better and keep you coming back to it.

8/10

Cosmic Bump
by Amit Goyal

Platforms: iOS; Price: $0.99

Cosmic Bump claims to combine the addictiveness of a great arcade game with mind-boggling puzzles. The great arcade game here is Pinball, and the puzzles are hardly mind-boggling. But that does not mean that the game isn’t fun.

The premise of the game is that an alien spaceship has run out fuel, and the aliens must collect this fuel spread across 90 levels divided into six chapters. Each level gives you three blob-like aliens to collect all fuel cells. The alien is launched into the play area via a launcher, and it dies if it touches the ground again. Completing the level with all three aliens intact gives the player three stars, and so on.

The puzzles are based on objects that utilise simple physics, such as bubbles that float up, fans that push the alien in specific directions, switches, and of course, Pinball flippers and bumpers. The game tries to combine precise puzzle solving with the unpredictability of arcade action, and it works well enough for Cosmic Bump to stand out of the crowd. However, it lacks an underlying theme to its puzzles, which makes it feel more like a bunch of objects cobbled together to force a puzzle, rather than the objects feeling like logical pieces in a larger puzzle.

It also has a rather useless IAP system, where the player can unlock all chapters without collecting the requisite amount of stars. However, the levels are simple enough to power through at 3 stars per level most of the time in a couple of retries. More than thought, the game requires precise aim with the flippers. For $0.99, it is an engaging enough experience, though not something you’ll be particularly impressed with.

6/10

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