There was a bit of drama in gaming news last week as it was revealed that former Xbox head Don Mattrick had tried to persuade his bosses at Microsoft to buy Zynga, before he left to become its CEO. Civilization players on the Mac got to finally play the Brave New World expansion. Scribblenauts creators 5th Cell announced that they were planning a DC Comics based spin off. There were an announcement that Rovio was going to release a sequel to Angry Birds: Star Wars. For the more hardcore Star Wars gamer, you can grab KOTOR on the iPad for half-off, in celebration of the game’s tenth anniversary.
For our games this week we have a Kickstart success that made its way to the iPhone. We have Rovio’s latest game for iOS. Also for iOS, we have the adventures of a cybernetic ninja. If that’s not enough Cyberpunk, we have the iOS installment in a classic Cyberpunk game series. We close out the week with a unique action RPG for the iPhone.
Monster Guru- iPhone
Many of the high profile Kickstarter games are only just finally seeing release. Monster Guru is among those titles. Taking its cues from Pokemon, the player takes the role of a monster hunter/tamer wandering a world slowly filling with Monsters. Each monster you encounter has a unique pattern required to capture them. These are as varied as running away a certain amount of times, to giving the monster a certain percentage of damage in one attack. You’ll also need to battle monsters using those you’ve captured. As you level them up, you’ll manage new abilities. As you progress you’ll find new quests which frame a story about your role in the creation of all the monsters.
The art style may be what sets Monster Guru apart from just another Pokemon clone. The hand drawn designs make you feel like you’ve stepped into someone’s fever dreams. The other unique feature is a GPS powered map, which unfortunately isn’t as much of an asset as the art style. GPS based games which tailor the map around your character based upon where you are is one thing, but it seems that Monster Guru expects you to wonder around the neighborhood holding your phone out. Thankfully, there is the ability to remove the GPS portion of the game, but this adds a two minute wait to unlock each unexplored area of the map.
What’s Good: Unique art style really sells this game as more than just a clone.
What Sucks: The GPS features are superfluous, adding the wait to explore the map without is just inconveniencing players for no reason.
Buy it?: This is a fun game that’s got a great look, grab this if you like Pokemon and are looking for an original take on the genre. It is only $2.99 on the App Store.
Tiny Thief – iOS (Universal)
Rovio has a keen eye for finding games that have cute characters. Tiny Thief is no exception, with its Robin Hood like protagonist who has to give a little leg wiggle while stashing himself in a barrel. Like Angry Birds, each level is a puzzle that you need to solve perfectly to get three stars. Rather than kamikazee-ing yourself into a pile of pigs, you’re sneaking through a level and collecting three items without being caught. This isn’t really a stealth game, but the principals of hiding and not getting caught do apply. However you won’t need to creep through the levels, and the game makes it very easy to time your runs.
The levels are not just attached to run through and grab item solutions, you also have to work with items in the level to correctly unlock all the stars. None of the early levels present much of a challenge, but it doesn’t take long until you’ll need to explore a bit before you will be able to unlock all three stars. Rovio does this really nicely, ensuring that the three star solutions will challenge experienced players, while ensuring just solving the levels is easy enough for kids to play through. Rovio does seem to have picked up a thread in games from Nintendo.
What’s Good: Really nice character design makes between level comics worth paying attention to. Levels are easy enough to pass, but require some thought to perfect.
What Sucks: Might be a bit too cutsey for some players.
Buy it?: Grab this game if you’re looking for a light experience that still requires some thought. Tiny Thief is $2.99 on the App Store.
Fallen World- iOS(Universal)
Fallen World is going to a bit jarring to some players, as it’s graphics are a bit jaded. Once you make it through the opening scene, that should fade back quickly. What you get is a twist on tower defense. Rather than placing your stationary defenses along the path, you take the role of a cybernetic ninja defending the center of the stage. You can place soldiers and turrets as well, but these only offer resistance to the enemies, you will have to run over and take care of most of the enemies yourself. The later levels get pretty difficult due to this fact, you’ll find yourself really having to work on timing to get through them.
The story to Fallen World is a bit rudimentary. The player is a cybernetic ninja guarding a girl that carries the virus that will free the world from the robots that have taken it over. It’s fairly simple, but it isn’t really developed in the game itself either. The game coasts on an opening cinematic to tell the story, and the game itself is all action. There is an arcade influence that drives that choice, and I think it’s for the better as the early cinematic emphasizes the limited graphics in the title.
What’s Good: This is a fun action game with a lot of content and a variety of enemies.
What Sucks: Graphics and story are limited in a way that may shy away players looking for a more in-depth experience.
Buy it?: If you like arcade action, this game is worth picking up. Grab Fallen World for $2.99 on the App Store.
Deus Ex: The Fall – iOS (Universal)
This is the game you want if you’re looking for story. This is a sequel to the Deus Ex novel, Icarus Effect. The game starts with a bit of a flashback that allows you to see Ben Saxon at full power, before you have to deal with a less powerful version of him starting out in Costa Rica. Form there it continues to tell a story of corporate conspiracy and the dawn of cybernetic augmentation. Though many of the elements feel like they are ripped straight out of a William Gibson novel and rewritten by Michael Bay.
The gameplay itself attempts to strike a balance between emulating Deus EX for the PC/Console and creating a touch friendly interface. Two control schemes exist simultaneously: a two stick and touch interface for aiming and moving. Considering that it works well, the hybrid approach may allow players to choose how they want to play. The emulated controller isn’t always the best choice for players, especially those looking for more tactile feedback. The touch controls have a much cleaner feel to them, but the inclusion of the legacy controls make sure that you can choose what’s most comfortable. The stealth kills/knockouts are done via a quicktime event, and it does include a hacking mini game as well.
What’s Good: A good approximation of the full game, complete with its own story. Control scheme is flexible and is accessible both for touch centric and virtual controller players.
What Sucks: Story is a bit overwrought, often borders on melodrama. Side characters don’t have very good voice actors.
Buy it?: This is a fun game for fans of Deus Ex, but may not do much for those unfamiliar with the franchise. You can grab the game for $6.99 on the App Store.
Dungeonism – iPhone
Dungeonism is a game that it would seem needs you to be of a certain age to enjoy. The graphics while crisp seem to evoke an Atari style that likely won’t fly if you’ve been playing 3D games most of your life. However, if you are nostalgic for Gauntlet of other action RPGs where working for the next level up is the only goal you have, this might be right up your alley. That does limit the accessibility of this game to a narrow audience, but it serves that audience delightfully. You create and name your character and continue through levels collecting gold, potions, arrows, and of course precious XP.
Dungeonism also manages to divide its experience into bite sized chunks that fit the iPhone perfectly. This is the sort of design choice that many non-casual developers on iOS seem to forget. Every game doesn’t need to be a 2:00 minute score attack, but is nice to having something that you can casually play on in line without worrying about the next save point. Dungeonism captures the arcade without the disposability, you get persistent characters. As you play you can upgrade equipment for your character, and do the sort of customization left for more complex RPGs.
What’s Good: An excellent take on an arcade action RPG that seems focused on quick sessions. Art style has a great retro feel.
What Sucks: Doesn’t have broad appeal, aimed squarely a certain audience.
Buy it?: If you like Gauntlet or its ilk, you should pick this up. Dungeonism is $1.99 on the App Store.