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Shattered Pixel Dungeon splash

In January, I bought an Android phone. This is only my second smartphone, an iPhone 4 being my first. I had that iPhone for almost three years and loved it, especially the way the App Store organized and presented games. However, I didn’t realize how much I appreciated the Apple App Store until I got an Android.

The Google Play Store, while more expansive, is way too inclusive. Even though I could find my old standbys like Threes and Crossy Road, I was having a really hard time finding any new, high-quality games on the bestseller lists. All of this is just a prelude to me grabbing my new favorite mobile game, Pixel Dungeon, after finding it at the top of many bloggers’ “best of” lists. But what was it about this particular game that made it so addictive?

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RELEASED
June 11 2014

PLATFORMS
mobile
PS3, PSV

DEVELOPER
One Loop Games

PUBLISHER
Sony

Fat Princess Piece of Cake is a free-to-play game with a solid core and a slew of slimy paywalls.

Fat Princess: Piece of Cakemobile successor to the popular Playstation 3 game Fat Princess, has a decent premise but asks too much from the player in terms of progressing through the game. The match-three RPG elements, while interesting and well put-together, are undercut by the all-too-common paywalls seen in mobile games that ask for cash in order to either progress or excel.

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turbo dismountI tackle a free-to-play destruction derby game with only five minutes of play under my belt and an open mind.

Turbo Dismount scratches that itch for varied gameplay and true-to-life physics. This game will have you sending a vehicle hurtling over what appear to be intentionally-designed ramps and apparently racking up points for how randomly your car falls and hurts your driver. The blocky models and suggestive positions you can put your drivers in will more than likely have you enjoying yourself slightly more often than scratching your head.

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asphalt overdriveI tackle the free-to-play driving game, Asphalt Overdrive, with only five minutes of play under my belt and an open mind.

Asphalt Overdrive does everything right, from its stand-out title to its fresh eighties soundtrack. You want pink neon writing? You want palm trees and sports cars? You want to be reminded of dozens of other games without actually playing them? You’ve come to the right place.

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kingdom rushAs some of you know, I don’t like tower defence games. As one reviewer put it, “tower defence gameplay feels more like frantic managerial work than anything else.” With that in mind, I approached Kingdom Rush with a degree of cynicism, expecting yet another stupidly long and boring resource management game where you can die right at the end and lose everything.

Thankfully, I was surprised with how much I engaged with Kingdom Rush the more I got into it. I wasn’t sure why I kept playing and I didn’t bother to stop and think about it. I played through the first eight or so battlefields before putting it down to take a break. When I realized I had just killed three or four hours, I started to wonder what it was that kept me so interested in a genre I usually actively avoid.

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LexI rarely download word-based mobile games any more. Honestly, they’re usually such a disappointment that I just figure why bother buying yet another Scrabble or Boggle clone? Do I REALLY need to play some new version of what’s already been done to death? Turns out, yes, I really do.

Lex isn’t really the same as Scrabble or word-finds or crosswords, even though I’m sure it’s a copy of some game or other that’s out there (see my article on 2048 vs Threes). Instead of giving you the chance to mull over your words like Scrabble does, it forces you to play before each letter’s individual timer runs out. Instead of giving you a set of letters to choose from like Boggle does, it constantly replaces the letters that you make words out of, showing only nine letters in an unchangeable order at one time.

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RELEASED
Dec 21 2013

PLATFORMS
iOS
Android

DEVELOPER
Magma Fortress

PUBLISHER
Magma Fortress

Simple but surprisingly challenging, Hoplite delivers an incredibly replayable experience while managing to stay fresh every time. 

Hoplite is a great example of how unassuming packaging backed up by solid mechanics and rewarding gameplay can all combine to make a simple game into something I can’t stop myself from coming back to over and over again. The game does everything right, from balanced AI to achievements that actually reward you with something tangible.

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Blek

I recently ran across a mobile game called Blek. It’s a paid app so I avoided it stupidly until I saw it show up on a few “Top 10” lists across the internet. So I paid my 99 cents and jumped in.

The game didn’t really seem like much: the opening screen was just a black circle and a smaller blue circle with a hand drawing a half-circle shape. Weird. No instructions, no menus, no flashy splash logo. So I touched the circles, but still nothing.

Finally, after “clicking” around the screen, I swiped my finger and the game opened up. The sketchy black line I had drawn multiplied over and over again, bouncing off the wall and, fortunately, colliding with the blue circle. That was it, tutorial over.

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Eliss InfinityAnyone who has owned or played a Nintendo 64 knows what it’s like to question how exactly you should be holding your controller. Is it left and right? Middle and right? How do I use the Z button if I need the D-pad?

Obviously, things have changed over time, although the same basic principles have prevailed since the arcade era: push buttons and tilt sticks to move and act. Of course, the ubiquity of the touch screen nowadays makes things a little more free-range, although many games stick to the idea of buttons and a single cursor (which is basically the modern equivalent of a joystick). That is, until you run up against games like Eliss Infinity.

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woman1Meeting a woman who plays video games is no longer a cause for surprise; instead, it’s gone through a weird variety of reactions from “you’re obviously a poser” to “man, I wish I could wife that!” Both are equally generalizing, obviously, but the concept of women in the field of video games seems to fascinate people.

For anyone who’s perused my author page, you’ll know that I have a degree in Creative Writing and English Literature but what it doesn’t say is that my specialization was in feminist and gender studies literature. I’m not an activist, I’m not even an outspoken person, but I am interested in watching out gender dynamics play out in everyday life and more and more lately, the video game world has become my everyday life.

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