Category: Game Reviews

GardenScapes: Can You Dig It?

Games that develop themselves over of a number of days are becoming more and more popular for today’s casual game player and Playrix Games’ Gardenscapes adds a unique entry into the market. But does Gardenscapes have what it takes to keep players coming back for more? Let’s find out.

Introduction

The game begins with an introduction to yourself. You’ve just recently inherited a house and discover that behind it lies a once beautiful garden. Your job is to start from scratch to rebuild the garden and restore it back to its natural beauty. You jump right into the game with a puzzle to collect a variety of apples. This is just a taste of the puzzles to come.

Graphics

The graphics consist of pre-rendered 3D elements on a 2D backdrop. The puzzle board, which is the main part of the game, is bright and colourful, and reminds me a bit of Columns for the Sega Genesis. The detailed graphics are what makes the game really shine.

Gameplay

In the match 3 game, you need to to match up 3 items.

Levels take a long time to complete, and earning a single star can be a bit slow. Since the number of moves you have is limited, you need to carefully strategize each move. If you run out of moves, you need to start from the beginning and you lose a life. You have a limited number of lives, so again, your strategy becomes important. Once you run out of lives, you need to wait a pre-determined amount of time before attempting the puzzle again.

As the puzzles get harder, you’ll encounter areas where you need to get creative. Some challenges include the waterfall where game pieces move as you destroy other pieces, the acorns, which are collected by matching different types of pieces closeby to them, and boxes, which take two hits to chip away at.

The main boosters are the bombs, twirlybird, and dynamite. These boosters are almost essential for some of the puzzles. Boosters can be earned by . Here’s a tip: match two firecrackers together to get the twirlybird quicker.

The main character has a seemingly unlimited amount one-lines to say, and just about every object is dynamic and touchable. While playing, you’ll encounter other characters that have their own unique traits. The development of the garden is actually a mini-game in itself, and you have the opportunity to improve it based on the amount of stars you collect.

Music

The music is bright and cheerful. I’m reminded somewhat of The Sims. The music is very appropriate for the game and is relaxing to listen to when you just want to play a quick puzzle.

Pay Point

Because Gardenscape is a free game, in-app purchases are available. Since the levels become hard quickly, you have a choice to pay to speed up the wait times, or just wait. You can buy the boosters that speed up some of the more difficult puzzles.

You can get some free perks by signing up friends and sharing your Facebook information, but I really don’t like doing this, and the majority your friends won’t appreciate the game request its sure to push out.

Gardenscapes is available right now for iOS and Android.

Merge Town: Become a Realtor without Ever Leaving your Home

Merge Town Review

Pick up and play games are becoming more and more popular for the casual game market, and Gram Games’ Merge Town adds a colourful entry into the market. But how does the game hold up in this competitive category? Let’s find out.

The object of merge town is to turn your plot of land into a thriving town. Every now and then you are given a house and your goal is to group these houses to form an even bigger house. The bigger the house, the more money you will earn. With the money that you earn, you can purchase more and more houses.

Graphics

The graphics in the game are bright and colourful. From the candy cane progress bar to the zippy star effects, the game is very easy on the eyes. The animations are unique and smooth. The layout of the game is very simple. You have a simple green grid surrounded by blue water which makes up your properties. As you progress further in the game, the screen zooms out and the houses become tinier. This doesn’t deter the game though.

Gameplay

As you level up, more spaces are unlocked. The game can get a bit slow when you’re waiting for a unboxed home to unlock. As you merge houses, you will discover new properties such as the duplex suplex, and cabin. These properties are worth more money and will help you progress your game.

Once in a while you’l get the mystery box, which will unlock a property prize. When your property slots are full, you can’t add any more houses, so you’ll need to merge your existing properties to continue.

The game plays in portrait mode, which makes it easy to play with one hand. Here’s a tip: tap the box at the bottom of the screen quickly to spawn more boxes without waiting.

Of course since this is a free to play app, you have the option of purchasing the double gold coin producer, but you also have the option to watch a short video advertisement to gain this power as well.

The random ad banner on the top of the screen was placed so that you don’t accidentally hit it. I really liked that Gram Games placed it this way so as to keep the gameplay uninterrupted, although as a I progressed further in the game, the ads slowly became more and more intrusive.

Watching your empire make money is fun, however progressing far in the game will require time, patience and a lot of screen tapping.

Music

The music is simple and carefree. I’m reminded of candy crush in some cases. The sound effects are a bit repetitive, especially the sound of the homes making money, but it’s well suited to the game. Overall, I really liked the music and sound effects.

 

Pitweenk: a Pixelated Pink and Puzzling Platformer

Simple apps that allow casual game players to pass the time are all-the-rage right now, and Pitweenk adds an interesting addition to the market. But is the game really worth the zero-dollar price tag? Let’s find out.

PREMISE
Pitweenk opens with a simple title screen with a play button. Tapping the play button brings you to the level select area, where you begin one of 25 levels. There’s no real backstory to the game, so you might just have to use your imagination.

GAMEPLAY
The object of the game is to get from point A to point B without dying. The coloured balls move around the screen in a pre-determined path. Once you figure out the pattern the balls follow, you can proceed without much difficulty. Landing on a spring will cause you to jump up in the air. This can be a little tricky, and the timing needs to be just right to avoid touching a ball. Touching a spike or falling down a hole will also cause you to restart the level. The game feels solid and I didn’t come across any glitches – but the simplicity of it doesn’t really allow for it. The replay value is good – if you miss a star, you can return to the level to try and get it again.

CONTROL
The controls are simple, consisting of just a left and right button. Most players will use their left thumb to go left and their right thumb to go right. This may seem unnatural at first, but once you start playing the controls become really intuitive. There is no dedicated jump button, which means that you rely fully on springs to make the character jump. The large ad banner in the free version is strategically placed in the middle of the screen. I touched the ad several times while playing, which disrupted the game.

GRAPHICS
The graphics are simple and flat. I feel as though the developer may have drawn the entire game him or herself, which I think gives the game a nice indie-look. The overall appearance looks a bit familiar, with the platform that reminds me of Super Mario World. Maybe the graphics could be a little more detailed, but they are fun and bright nonetheless.

MUSIC
The music consists of a short jingle when a level begins and another jingle when the level is completed. The character makes a noise when he dies, touches a spring, and when he gets a star. The sound when the character gets hit reminds me of Pac-Man exploding. This summarizes the entire soundtrack of the game; there is no background music, which I feel could have added some atmosphere to the world. Again, I feel as though the developer may have whipped these jingles together.

Cavorite: A Jolly Good Escape from the Moon

With indie-games becoming more and more popular on mobile devices, it’s getting difficult to distinguish them from their high-ticket counterparts. Cascadia Games, the developers of Cavorite deliver a classic game feel along with some interesting puzzles. But is this game successful in disguising its indie-game roots? Let’s find out.

PREMISE

The game begins with an introduction to Dr. Cavor who is trapped inside of the moon. He’s being held captive by funny looking creatures called Selenites. The player’s goal is to reach the surface of the moon and get back to planet Earth by solving a series of complex puzzles and collecting mechanical parts scattered throughout the level.

The game spans 63 levels across 3 different areas; the Deep Caverns, Lava Tunnels, and Lunar Foundry. The first few levels of the Deep Caverns are pretty simple and give the player a feel for the controls and the “anti-gravity” spray, called cavorite.

CONTROL

The touch-screen controls are fairly responsive and the placement of the buttons are where you would expect at the bottom of the screen.

When you pause the game however, the “resume” button is wedged right in between the “exit game” and “restart” buttons, which caused me to accidentally quit the level I was in the middle of playing. And since the game pauses automatically when you answer a call or switch to another app, you’re forced to carefully tap the resume button to avoid quitting or restarting the level. Pressing and holding the jump button causes Dr. Cavor to endlessly jump; this feels unnatural and cheap. Speaking of unnatural, the jump sound plays when the player continuously presses the jump button, even when the game is completed.

GRAPHICS

The graphics are sharp and pixelated, which is the intended look. The animations are smooth. Dr. Cavor’s idle animation is unnerving; he keeps fidgeting and looking around. The sometimes glitchy movement can be frustrating; I found myself eyerolling at some of the major glitches. In some cases, you might even get stuck in a level – perhaps this is why the developers included a tiny restart button wedged in the upper right-hand side of the screen. This button instantly restarts the level, so you have to be careful not to tap it accidentally.

GAMEPLAY

Despite the various glitches, this is a very enjoyable game. The Cavorite spray allows you to raise boxes and temporarily freeze the enemy characters. The obstacles in the game include the Selenites, lasers that instantly burn you to a crisp, lava, and spikes that (for some reason) cause your eyes to bleed. The boxes can be raised or pushed to defeat enemies and activate buttons. In some cases, you work with the Selenites to complete the level. Activating the buttons will cause other actions, such as opening of doors. Be careful though, because moving a box over a mechanical part will make it disappear, forcing you to restart the level in order to add the part to your inventory. The bosses are challenging and sometimes you can find yourself restarting the level pretty quickly. Luckily, there is an unlimited number of retries for every level.

MUSIC

The music has a dark, sometimes creepy tone to it. It’s a fitting sound for the appearance of each world. The sound effects are pretty standard – if you don’t like the music or sound effects, you can adjust or mute the volume from the main menu. The jump and cavorite sounds are annoying, especially with the glitch. If you really enjoy the soundtrack, you can even download it for free from http://drcavor.com/downloads.html.

Cavorite is currently available for iOS and Mac.

Video Review: Goblin Sword (iOS)

There’s no shortage of linear platformer games on mobile devices, and Gelato Game’s “Goblin Sword” adds an interesting entry into a nearly saturated market. But what separates Goblin Sword from the other entries? Let’s find out.

PREMISE

There are several worlds consisting of about 18 levels in each area. The levels are completed in a linear fashion with the next level unlocking after defeating the one before it. If you get stuck on a level, you can go to a different area to take a break. There are 3 blue crystals hidden deep within the bowels of each level. There are also treasure chests that contain either a weapon or a souvenir that is added to your home area. The souvenirs are useless but act as a sort of trophy while the weapons and power-ups are extremely helpful in completing the game.

These items are hidden throughout the levels and finding these hidden areas can be tricky; some walls are hollow and can be walked through, but this isn't obvious until you walk right next to them.

CONTROL

The controls are well laid out and can be fully customized. If you find the controls difficult to see, you can control the level of transparency by swiping a slider left or right. The B button is used to jump and the A button activates your weapon. You always have the ability to double-jump, but eventually you'll encounter my personal favourite item - boots that allow you to triple jump.

VISUALS

The visuals in the game are reminiscence of the 16-bit era of gaming from the early to mid-90's. The side scrolling is smooth. The main character, as well as enemy sprites are well animated. The big bosses are nicely drawn. When the player dies, he simply blows up into a fiery smoke. All of the visuals are slightly blocky, but this appear to be intentional to give the game a classic feel.

GAMEPLAY

The difficulty ranges from easy to hard. The first few levels give the player a sort of tutorial to get started. Some levels can be completed quickly while others will take some quick reflexes. Some thinking will be involved in solving the puzzles for the side quests, but this is mostly an action-oriented game. Each weapon has a hidden power that can be unlocked by obtaining the orb, a blue sphere that appears randomly in the game. The quick power up comes in really handy at many points in the game.

MUSIC

The fantastic soundtrack within the game gives atmosphere to the specific area that you are in. The sound effects are consistent and match the expected action. The title screen simply has the sound of wind blowing which I find sets the tone for the quest that lies ahead.

REPLAY

There are 46 side quests and multiple endings making the replay value of the game very high. Even if you beat the game, you can go back and finish up the mini quests. The powerups obtained after collecting a lot of coins make the game easier and more fun to repeat. You have the option to reset the game and start over once you've completed the game. I would have liked to reset the game and keep my powerups though.

Video Review: Archibald’s Adventures Update

DOWNLOAD ARCHIBALD’S ADVENTURES HERE

Strategy games that promote thinking rather than key mashing seem to be few and far between on mobile platforms, but Archibald’s Adventures delivers a platform game that combines old school graphics with strategy elements. The publisher, Rake in Grass Games recently released a re-vamped version of Archibald’s Adventures after years of silence, but is this recent update worth checking out? Let’s find out.

PREMISE
The game opens with an introduction to Archibald, the survivor of a crazed grandfather who is stuck in
his lab. The player’s job is to rescue gramps by using various gadgets distributed throughout the lab.

There are 12 areas consisting of up to 16 different levels. The first few levels are actually tutorials that give the player a feel for the controls and get increasingly harder. Once you reach level 4, the real fun begins. You use your skateboard to dash across platforms and avoid spikes and foes. As you progress, you’ll unlock a mystery goo–a pink bubble that sticks to various items and can transport boxes, bombs, push buttons, and get to places Archibald can’t. Be careful though, because touching a picky spike or enemy will cause the bubble to pop. Some levels rely fully on the bubble.

Later on, you’ll obtain the transporter, which will allow you to zip across levels and attach to metal objects. It takes some getting used to, but it’s really fun. In one level, the gravity is changed which gives a new take on the gameplay and forces you to come up with a creative solution to finishing the level.

Once you’ve completed all of the levels you can go back and play them again. There are a few Easter Eggs in the game that give it a good replay value. The updated version of the game gives us a bigger touchscreen control pad, faster bubble travel speed, full-screen mobile device support and richer and sharper graphics. The ability to erase your data and start a new game has also been added.

CONTROL
The controls in the initial update were far too tiny to use, but after users voiced their concerns, the developers promptly took action. I liked the touch-screen controls; when you need to use your only sub-item (a sticky bubble), you simply hit the bubble icon. If you happen to be in an area where you can’t use the bubble the translucent button is not visible. This applies to when you can’t navigate up or down as well, with the exception that the “up” and “down” arrows are about 25% more translucent. The controls can be fully customized to suit your preference.

GRAHPICS
Graphics are bright and colourful with plenty of eye candy to analyze while playing. The game now fully supports retina-display graphics. One tiny imperfection (only a 2D nerd would care about) is that the bubble uses dithering instead of alpha blending. We know how tricky alpha-blending can be, but come on! It’s a secondary character.

GAMEPLAY
Difficulty ranges from very easy to very hard. I found myself completing some levels in one shot, and other took days to figure out. One bug to watch out for: Level 3-11 seems to be missing collision detection on the far-right. You could wind up going right through the side of the wall and crashing the game.

MUSIC
The sound effects are amazing. When you get close to a certain object, you hear stereotypical computer sounds along with (what sounds like) a dot-matrix printer firing off a page. When Archibald crashes his vehicle, you hear a loud sound of glass smashing. The music although repetitive, is excellent and matches the gameplay. There are a handful of tracks that are selected randomly and played throughout the levels. This also contributes replayability to the game.

DOWNLOAD ARCHIBALD’S ADVENTURES HERE

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild review: Unsurpsingly Boring

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is another diluted installment in the long running and ill-fated Zelda franchise. Although the game rings a fair bell to the earlier 2D-based NES games, this one couldn’t be further from its roots. All of the hype for the Switch has caused a massive amount of fanfare, however the game just does not deliver.

The beast that Nintendo has created is a unencompassing out-of-body experience where you find yourself in a crappy 3D universe. The game takes forever to start – you wake up as link who has been sleeping for a 100 years. And it feels like it. Way too many cinematics and not enough gameplay. I felt as though the game tried to make the old man in the black cape was going to give me some sort of flying device, but he forced 3 more orbs out of me. Bait and “switch”, I guess you could say.

As the game finally started to ramp up you hear some of the awful voice acting, dubbed as “quirky”. It’s not cute or funny. The small overworld is blocked by a few bricks and whatnot, as per usual. The storyline, which is to save Hyrule by defating Ganon and saving Princess Zelda is one we’ve all heard before. Why is Nintendo re-hashing a formula that never really worked? Innovation anyone?

The music is a series of lutes and farts, with no clear focus or sense of the world around it.

After a few hours of playing the game, I beat it. The end credits rolled, and I was like whaaat? Let’s hope the switch comes out with some better games, and soon!

Score: 2/10

Archibald’s Adventures 2

Strategy games similar to Abe’s Oddessy seem to be few and far between on iOS, but Archibald’s Adventures brings the strategic adventure platform us 2D fans love.

I liked the touch-screen controls; when you need to use your only sub-item (a sticky bubble), you simply hit the bubble icon. If you happen to be in an area where you can’t use the bubble the translucent button is not visible.

This applies to when you can’t navigate up or down as well, with the exception that the “up” and “down” arrows are about 25% more translucent. The bubble can carry boxes, bombs, push buttons, and get to places Archibald can’t. Be careful though, because touching a picky spike or enemy will cause the bubble to pop.

Graphics are bright and colourful with plenty of eye candy to analyze while playing. I’d have liked to see sharp retina-display graphics, but that will have to wait until Archibald Adventures 2 (yes the project has been revived). One tiny imperfection (only a 2D nerd would care about) is that the bubble uses dithering instead of alpha blending. We know how tricky alpha-blending can be, but come on! It’s a secondary character.

Difficulty ranges from very easy to very hard. The first few levels are designed like a tutorial with a few helpful hints on mini-computer screens. One bug to watch out for: Level 3-11 seems to be missing collision detection on the far-right. You could wind up going right through the side of the wall and crashing the game.

Sound effects are pure awesomeness. When you get close to a certain machine, you hear stereotypical computer sounds along with (what sounds like) a dot-matrix printer firing off a page. When Archibald crashes his vehicle, you hear a loud sound of glass smashing. The music, although repetitive, is excellent and matches the gameplay.

All in all, I love this game…if anyone knows a similar game, post it in the comments!

Oh..and hurry up and finish the sequal RakeInGrass!