Sorry for the tardiness of the reviews this week, but I got a bit sidetracked by our closing game. First up I have a game that brings arcade action to iOS without the free to play nonsense. I also take a look at a game I liked so much I got a little disturbed. I close out the week with a game that is the most fun commercial I’ve ever played.
Xenowerk – iOS(Universal)
Xenowerk is equal parts Metroid and Robotron. You play a soldier sent to clear labs and military bases after a mutant outbreak. The game doesn’t have much plot, but the voiceless hero has some obvious overtures to Samus.
The gameplay is pure dual-stick shooter. You run around darkened hallways fending off monsters from all sides. You collect coins that you use to unlock new weapons and armor. Your equipped weapons level up as you play, but you’ll want a bit of variety.
This is a generic arcade shooter, but that isn’t a bad thing. This is pure action, but has quick levels. This is a fun way to spend five or ten minute bursts, without any free to play cruft.
What’s Good: Fun arcade shooter, quick levels make this a casual play.
What Sucks: Story is weak.
Buy it?: If you prefer your actions heroes silent, pick up Xenowerk. Download it on the App Store for $1.99
Psycho Escape – iOS(Universal)
I think that turning the ‘escape room’ franchise into a literal escape from a serial killer was a really interesting play. Sadly, Psycho Escape never manages to deliver on that premise beyond a hooded figure taunting you from the corner of the screen.
Otherwise this is your typical puzzle room escape game. Every room is essentially the same, you start by collecting various items to find clues that give you a code. You then use that code to move to the next room. The formula is steady for most of the game.
Even if you do get stuck, the game is always ready with a video walkthrough. As long as you watch an ad, you’ll never be stuck. The game also has a banner ad at the bottom while you play, unless you pay for both packs of bonus stages.
Even with those packs this games only takes a couple of hours to finish. Both sets of levels are $1.99, so you’ll have to do the value math for yourself. I put this game on par with those crossword puzzle books you can pick up in the airport to pass the time. It also makes a nice cheap place to try out this genre before getting something like Monument Valley.
What’s Good: Neat framing idea for escape game.
What Sucks: Short, could use a little visual polish.
Buy it?: If you’re looking for an entry point for the escape genre, check out Psycho Escape. Download it for free on the App Store.
Hitman: Sniper – iOS(Universal)
Hitman: Sniper is a great game. So great, that it makes me a bit uncomfortable about how much fun I had gleefully gunning down dozens and dozens of guards and targets. Every stage is exactly the same, you are perched opposite a compound full of double agents, enemy leaders, and swarms of guards. You’re given a target to eliminate, but there are also various sub missions you’ll have to complete. (I want to emphasize that when I say every stage is exactly the same, it’s always the exact same stage.)
Those secondary missions are the thing that makes the game truly engaging. Considering that you play every level on the same map, it’s a good way to ensure that you don’t get bored with the game. Sometimes these missions are very difficult–like getting three headshots on moving targets.
Each of these can be helped with abilities that your sniper rifles have. Some rifles you unlock will allow you too see all shootable targets in the environment. Others have explosive rounds. There’s also the iron lungs ability that slows down time to help you set up a perfect shot. New rifles are unlocked as you kill targets, but some are only available with IAP. I think that’s a bit egregious, considering the base game is five bucks, I don’t think they need to charge you six for a rifle in the game.
What’s Good: Really well put together game with lots of challenges to keep you coming back.
What Sucks: Lack of variety in stages.
Buy it?: If you like finding the optimal way to play through shooters, check out Hitman: Sniper. Download it on the App Store for $4.99.
Democracy 3 – iPad
I loved Democracy 3 on the Mac, but I think that the game really took hold of me on the iPad. Probably because it seems silly to a game comprised almost entirely of graphs on a full sized computer screen.
If you missed the game on the Mac, you choose from one of a few major western democracies: Canada, The United States, France, Germany, or The United Kingdom. You are now the President, Prime Minister, etc. You will need to pass policies to curry favor with the voters while balancing the budget. You’ll earn political capital based on your popularity,
The game isn’t all numbers management, your policies may embolden you enemies. I ended my first run through the game assassinated by religious extremists. You’ll also need to manage your cabinet, making sure that you attend to their political constituencies. I don’t think that this game is going to have the wide appeal of something like Clash of Clans, but if you’re into sim games, this shouldn’t be missed.
What’s Good: Very in-depth simulation, with plenty of options to run the government how you’d like.
What Sucks: Might be a bit impenetrable until you play a few times, especially if you don’t follow politics.
Buy it?: If you’re into politics and sim games, check out Democracy 3. Download it for $4.99 on the App Store.
Fallout Shelter – iOS(Universal)
Fallout Shelter is a blatant advertisement for Fallout 4. It’s also a clone of Tiny Tower and other time based building games. I can forgive both of those things because the game does both so perfectly that you can’t fault it.
You play the vault overseer, tasks with guiding your vault though the post apocalypse. You have to build facilities to manage water, food, and power. If you’re good you can stave off starvation and radiation poisoning long enough to build your vault’s population by putting your male and female vault dwellers in the barracks until sparks fly. I have read a few reviews complaining about this portrayal of women as breeder factories. I can see where their coming from but the game is set in to the tone of the Vault-Tech propaganda you find from the pre-war world.
The game’s free to play angle is based on the equipment your vault dwellers need to fight off raiders, radroaches, fires, and exploring the wastelands. Though you will find some of this equipment on your own, almost all of it needs to be unlocked via lunch-boxes. These give you five cards that are resources, equipment, and other things you’ll need. You get a few for free early on when you complete in game challenges, but it seems like you’ll need to shell out for a few sooner or later.
What’s Good: All of the cool retro kitsch of Fallout, a more involved take on the tower/building genre.
What Sucks: Won’t take long before you do have to pay to buy upgrade packs.
Buy it?: If you’re a Fallout fan and don’t mind paying into your free to play games, pick up Fallout Shelter. Download it for free on the App Store.