android

Amazing Alex

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Amazing Alex CoverI was never any good at The Incredible Machine. It was one of a handful of games available in my elementary school's computer lab, and it was the only one that stumped me every time. I knew the Oregon Trail like the back of my hand, and my SimCity could withstand any disaster, but the motors and pulleys and cheese-seeking mice never quite registered for me.

So it was with some hesitation that I downloaded Amazing Alex, the next game by the Angry Birds folks. It has all the friendly colors and streamlining of Rovio's money-printing slingshot game, but Incredible Machine's spirit clearly lives within. And I didn't think I had the Rube Goldberg skills to finish it.

But I did. I finished all 112 stages and collected the three stars in each. And it was the most fun I've had with my smartphone yet.

Epic Astro Story

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Epic Astro Story CoverAll good things must come to an end: I just finished the first Kairosoft game I would call bad. I’ve played a few Kairosoft sims that were unbalanced or boring, but never both. Epic Astro Story is the official low bar among a great series of games that range from training a soccer team to running a game design studio.

Epic Astro Story is a space colony sim where you build up an industrial/tourism complex on an empty planet while sending out away-parties to explore the darkness around you. While traveling through caves, mountains, and deserts, your team will fight against local bad guys for the right to the land.

I’ve had great success with Kairosoft games so far, most of them have clicked really well with me and my tastes, but from the start I had issues with Epic Astro Story. Here’s my review.

Angry Birds Space and Cut the Rope Experiments

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Angry Birds Space CoverThree of my favorite mobile series recently received updates, so it’s time to revisit them. Angry Birds Space is the new Super Mario Galaxy inspired spinoff of the original bird-flinging game, and Cut the Rope: Experiments expands upon the original Cut the Rope concept with new ideas and 125 levels. Finally, the genius Where’s My Water? has received some new levels since my original review, so I’ll touch on that too.

Laugh if you want, but I really love these games for their quintessential mobile experiences. Levels are short and sweet, difficulty ramps up slowly, and gameplay variety is injected constantly. Each of them have fun with physics and benefit greatly from the touchscreen. Plus, they’re dirt cheap.

My thoughts will hopefully be short and efficient, just like the games I’m reviewing. I played each game on my Android EVO 4G phone.

Mega Mall Story

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Mega Mall Story CoverAs I reflect on Mass Effect 3 before I attempt to write its full review, I’ve been catching up on games in mobile land. Angry Birds Space and Cut the Rope: Experiments were just released, but I’ve sort of grown into a Kairosoft fanboy over the last few years so they beckon even stronger. Mega Mall Story is my latest go at their games after Pocket League Story, and it brings some new ideas to the “Story” series and merges some of their existing ones, as well.

In Mega Mall Story you run, well, a mall. In lots of ways it feels like SimTower, the Maxis published simulation where building up was just as important as fattening your wallet. But it also feels like a traditional Kairosoft title, with all the charm and number crunching seen in some of their more sportier titles, plus the layout challenge founded in Hot Springs Story.

Mega Mall Story is available for both Android and iOS for a few bucks, I played it on my HTC EVO 4G phone.

Pocket League Story

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Pocket League Story CoverI find soccer boring. It has its exciting moments, but those usually happen when I’m getting a snack. On the other hand, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed lots of soccer video games over the years, starting with Nintendo World Cup for the NES and peaking with the insane Sega Soccer Slam on the GameCube. There’s just something so simplistic and fun about kicking a ball into a goal, especially when that ball is on fire.

So truthfully, I like arcade soccer, the kind of stuff displayed in the movie Shaolin Soccer. But when I discovered I was four games behind on Kairosoft’s Android releases, I decided to start with the soccer simulator: Pocket League Story.

In the same vein as Game Dev Story and Grand Prix Story, Pocket League Story has you guiding a soccer team from the dirt pile in your backyard to the top of the world. There are lots of numbers and tons of crunching, but most refreshing, every soccer game plays out in front of your eyes. If you thought watching your cars race in Grand Prix Story got me excited, well, you should have seen me when my first 11 versus 11 match played out. Here’s my review of Pocket League Story.

Where's My Water?

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Wheres my Water CoverI played quite a few mobile games in 2011, and I don't expect that to change much in 2012. Where's My Water? was available as a Free App of the Day on the Amazon Android store a few weeks ago, and I picked it without much thought and tucked it in the mobile queue. Free games are great, especially on a pick-up-and-play platform like a phone. It's pretty amazing how the ideas behind a First Hour Review can be boiled down from 60 minutes to 30 seconds.

Where's My Water? passed my immediate test of being playable and having an interesting concept; a few days later with every rubber ducky collected and all the challenge levels defeated, I'm ready to declare it a triumphant mobile game along the lines of Angry Birds and Cut the Rope, here are my thoughts.

Airport Mania 2: Wild Trips

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Airport Mania 2 CoverWikipedia says Airport Mania 2: Wild Trips' genre is "Click Management", which sounds like the category Microsoft Excel would also be filed under. But trust me, Airport Mania 2 is infinitely more fun. In the same vein as Diner Dash, Sally Spa, and all the hundreds of other click management, strategy, time management clones out there, the goal is to efficiently do something with limited resources. But Airport Mania 2 stands above the rest with high polish and attractive graphics.

Developed by Reflex Entertainment and South Wind Games, the original Airport Mania: First Flight, was a mild success for Windows and OSX in 2008. Re-released on nearly every portable platform since then (including DSiWare), they've slowly been building their airport simulator empire. Airport Mania 2, released earlier this year, is an upgrade of the original but still carries all the charm.

Airport Mania 2 is less of an airport simulator and more of an air-traffic control strategy game. Let's take a quick look at the Android version released a few weeks ago.

Plants vs. Zombies

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Plants vs Zombies CoverPlants vs. Zombies is a game I've been eyeing for a while.  It regularly tempted me at $10 Steam with even cheaper sale prices.  This summer's sale finally put me over the edge.  Every so often you need some good tower defense action, and PvZ seemed like a unique yet highly praised take on the genre.  Its cartoonish, Popcap/flash feel and simple five-lane setup makes things perfect for beginners.  And it has enjoyed massive success over a huge variety of platforms.  Originating on PC, PvZ has since expanded to every modern platform imaginable, both traditional and mobile.  Popcap is undeniably a casual gaming powerhouse.  The Bejeweled and Feeding Frenzy creators certainly know how to make products and pricing that clicks with the average consumer.  They've been so successful that EA recently purchased the company for ~$750 million.

For the most part, PvZ exemplifies this success.  It creates a casual-friendly atmosphere with calculated progressive learning combined with enough longevity and a tad of optional difficulty to round out the complete package.  The game starts slowly, at first holding your hand with only a couple plant options (towers) available to defend your house from a weak zombie horde on a completely barren level.  With only five lanes to defend, beginners will learn quickly what it takes to operate.  In case they make mistakes, the game includes a get-out-of-jail-free card, in the form of zombie-clearing machines that activate and clear the lane should a zombie make it past the plants.  For a while, the game introduces a new plant on almost every level, encouraging the player to try them out and discover what they're worth.  Soon enough, juggling several plant types on more obnoxious levels will be a requirement.

Tower Defense Standoff - GRave Defense HD and Fieldrunners HD

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Fieldrunners CoverI’m pretty new to the tower defense genre, I missed out on the first few waves of games including the massively popular Desktop Tower Defense, and first experienced it with Plants vs. Zombies, which is probably a sub-genre of its own. But since buying my Android phone, I’ve been exposed to a lot of games I couldn’t imagine myself playing even a few months ago. Two of those are tower defense games.

Fieldrunners HD and GRave Defense HD are great examples of two distinct approaches at the tower defense genre. Both are easy to pick up and play for 10 minutes, but are amazingly effective at grabbing you in for over an hour. However, that is where the similarities end, and it is their differences that really define them.

Both titles are available right now for under $3 on the Android Market, and Fieldrunners is also available on a wide variety of devices including iOS and the Nintendo DS. Here’s my short reviews of Fieldrunners HD and GRave Defense HD.

Grand Prix Story

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Grand Prix Story CoverKairosoft has quickly become my favorite developer on mobile platforms. With the English release of Game Dev Story last year, Kairosoft has placed themselves as the premier simulation creator on iOS and Android. Game Dev Story was followed up by the SimCity-esque Hot Springs Story, and then Android received the exclusive Grand Prix Story a few months back (Pocket Academy, a high school simulation was released exclusively for iPhone and iPad).

Kairosoft has been a very active developer the last few years in Japan, with over 20 releases, including already released sequels to some of their English titles. Their lineup of games ranges from the ordinary to bizarre to simply inspired, with Game Dev Story serving as a catalyst for new markets.

I reviewed Hot Springs Story a few weeks ago, and quite enjoyed both the similarities and differences it had to Game Dev Story. From the games released outside of Japan, there appears to be two types of gameplay: the straight up numbers game like Game Dev Story, and the Hot Springs style layout designer/builder. Grand Prix Story falls under the former, Pocket Academy under the latter. Here's my review of Grand Prix Story for Android, played on an EVO 4G. I hope to have a Pocket Academy review soon.

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