I swear that this Tuesday review thing isn’t a forever change to the schedule. I’ve just been a bit behind getting back to normal. This week I’ve got an interesting slate of games. First up is a horror game from Amazon for iOS. I’ll also take a look at a puzzle game that brings all the difficulty of an obscure NES game. This week I’ll close with a two for one review of the new Halo games for iOS.
Lost Within – iOS(Universal)
The horror genre ebbs and flows in video games. Resident Evil and Silent Hill were both huge franchises that at this point are just action games with monsters. Alien: Isolation made a big splash for bringing back some serious fear to the genre. Amazon’s first game for iOS, Lost Within, picks up on that game’s threads and creates a gripping adventure.
The story isn’t all that original, and takes on some pretty standard tropes. You play a cop making sure that an abandoned insane asylum is clear before it is destroyed. Surprise, surprise, the asylum is haunted. Though rather than the inmates mental illness taking the blame, instead it’s a twisted doctors that experimented on the patients. The patients were outfitted with “devices” which turn them into mindless monsters. They’re quick and powerful, and you’re only able to hide from them inside lockers.
The game play is all touch based. You do have some items that you find along the way. You craft bandages that can heal. You’ll also be able to craft a stun gun that gives you some time to run from the inhabitants. The items add some depth, but they aren’t essential to the game.
What’s Good: Excellent horror game the doesn’t overuse action.
What Sucks: Story is a bit cliche.
Buy it?: If you liked the original Silent Hill, or just like good horror games, check out Lost Within. Grab it on the App Store for $6.99.
Space Age – Mac
Space Age was one of my favorite games on the iPad just getting eked out by Broken Age for my iPad game of the year. On the Mac, the game wasn’t nearly as charming. Most of this had to do with the bigger screen. The action was much less smooth on the Mac, I had problems where the camera frame would end up scrolling incorrectly. This left me with a quarter screen of black, which made it difficult to get through the without restarting the app.
If you didn’t check out the original review. Space Age is a tribute to old school adventure games from the makers of the iOS classic, The Incident. The game opens during the first manned mission to an alien planet. You play as a private exploring Kepler–16, and along the way, you rescue your fellow crew members, meet aliens both friendly and aggressive, and even flash back to your childhood.
The graphics have a pixelated old-school feel, but they’re polished enough that they don’t feel lazy. The controls are all touch, and resemble something you would use for an RTS. I really liked this game, and it isn’t broken on the Mac; but it isn’t the instant classic the iPad version was.
What’s Good: Great game that’s a spot on tribute to old school adventure games.
What Sucks: Some glitches on the bigger screen. Loses some of it’s charm on the larger screen.
Buy it?: If you’ve been putting off Space Age because you’re touch control averse, pick it up on the Mac App Store for $4.99.
Dungeons of Madness- iOS(Universal)
Dungeon of Madness continues the puzzle streak. However this has been the first one that I just wasn’t very good at. It isn’t that the concept isn’t appealing. The idea of a pathing puzzle combined with an RPG is a really great idea, I just suck at it.
I played this game for a huge chunk of time, stumbling through the first six levels or so. It’s a cool concept though. You have ninety seconds to kill all of the monsters in a level by rotating pieces of the dungeon map to make a path for your hero. You’ll also need to get the treasure to transform the princess from a stuffed bear, and lead both of you to the dungeon exit. If you take longer than ninety seconds death appears and tries to kill you. Your princess can also be killed, or you can just leave her as a teddy bear just so you can escape.
I wouldn’t make a great medieval hero. I’m honestly not sure why I suck at this game, but I just do. The concept is really neat, and the classic 8-bit art style make this feel like a lost NES classic. (That may have to do with the grueling difficulty.)
What’s Good: Inventive concept, cool art style.
What Sucks: Difficulty.
Buy it?: If you like difficult puzzle games with a classic twist, check out Dungeon of Madness. Download it on the App Store for $0.99.
Cops and Donuts – iOS(Universal)
Cops and Donuts is an odd sort of game. It’s the kind of simple arcade game that is so simple it almost seems dumb. Then you figure out that you’ve been playing it for an hour and haven’t talked to anyone, shortly after that you feel the kink in your neck from hunching over your phone.
You are a cop, with donuts coming in at you from one of fourth paths. Donuts come in various colors, and combine into stripes and sprinkles if the combine together. These have the power to clear multiple donuts from the path at once, or all donuts of the same color from the board. If you end up with a couple of rows that are about to fill up, you can call for backup and clear the board.
As you play you collect donuts that can be used to unlock new avatars like Action Cop or Angry Cop. The game is ad supported, and there is a large take over ad between games, but there isn’t any sleazy in app come ons for IAP. This is just a simple time waster of a game.
What’s Good: Fun game, addictive.
What Sucks: Might be too simple for some players.
Buy it?: If you’re looking for a simple time waster, check out Cops and Donuts. Pick it up on the App Store for free.
Spartan Assault/Strike – iOS(Universal)
I have a soft spot for the entire Halo franchise. You might cite Word or Visual BASIC as the high point for Microsoft, but for me it’s the Halo franchise. (The fact Mac gamers were cheated out of Bungie’s greatness notwithstanding.) The story of Master Chief is still on of the most epic in gaming, and the various social spinoffs are great. A dual stick shooter, Spartan Assault was released a few years ago for Windows 8 and Windows Phone. The game was recently re-released for iOS along with its sequel, Spartan Strike.
Whereas Halo has redefined the modern era of FPS games, these titles are dual stick shooters with an isometric camera. This changes the feel a bit, but not in a bad way. This feels much quicker and frenetic than Halo proper, curiously it also feels a bit more strategic. Threading the needle around cover, or timing your runs are easier to plan out from the overhead perspective.
There are armor abilities that add a new wrinkle to the game. These do things like spawn a clone that runs off and draw fire, or put up a field that heals you and your allies. The second game adds new armor abilities that include some offensive abilities. This adds a unique rub to the game play, differentiating it from the regular Halo games.
Each game has a complete story. They spin the alternate perspective as you’re playing through a strategic simulator, the story played out in cut scenes between levels. Spartan Assault is a completely new story about a post peace battle between the humans and a rouge group of Covenant. Spartan Strike starts off by recasting the ODST spin off to Halo 3 into a single set of levels, and then picks up a new story about a forerunner weapon that can destroy Earth.
The story doesn’t quite have the epic feel of the mainstream Halo games, but it’s a big universe with plenty of story to go around. What I think best defines the series is the tone and setting, and these are pulled off effectively in both games.
What’s Good: Fun take on an existing universe, with good story and gameplay.
What Sucks: Completely linear game, not a lot of room for exploration.
Buy it?: Halo and sci-fi shooter fans should pick up both games.