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Cogs

Indie Impression

Cogs Cover3D, steampunk, tile-based puzzler. That's Cogs in a nutshell. Remember those little square puzzles from your youth where there was one empty spot to slide the other squares around to form a picture? Well, combine that with a bit of Pipe Dream and slap on a really slick interface, and you have on of the more unique puzzle games of the last few years. As part of the third Humble Bundle, you may well own this title and not even realize it.

Released in 2009 by Lazy 8 Studios on numerous platforms including iOS and PlayStation Home (yes, Home, that Second Life thing that hasn't received attention in three years), Cogs is a simple to play game that will challenge your wits and patience. If you can sit and play the sliding puzzle games for a bit, you'll enjoy Cogs for its extra depth on top of the base. If you can't stand that kind of puzzler, well, might as well just skip this game now.

First Hour is happy to present to you another entry in its Indie Impression series: Cogs.

Pocket League Story

Full Review

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.

Anomaly: Warzone Earth

Full Review

Anomaly Warzone Earth CoverIf someone tells you they're going to do a "reverse" something, odds are the result will be terrible. The concept sounds similarly cheesy for games, evoking memories of bad minigames and multiplayer modes. However, for some genres it actually could be a fresh take on the concept, and 11-Bit Studios tries to prove this with their "reverse tower defense" game, Anomaly: Warzone Earth. 11-Bit is a brand new developer out of Poland, powered by a small team of industry veterans. It appears that they've taken an independent mindset towards publishing and distributing, releasing Anomaly directly to Steam and the Mac Store. Thus far, they seem to be having a good deal of success and are proving capable in quickly porting their game to new platforms, including iOS, Kindle Fire (!) and an upcoming XBLA release.

Where's My Water?

Full Review

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.

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7

First Hour Review

Lego Harry Potter Years 5 7 CoverI love the LEGO videogames. I’ve said this before, and I’ll probably keep on saying it, especially if the folks over at Traveller’s Tales use their magical powers to read my mind and make LEGO Lord of the Rings or LEGO Men in Black next. My favorite of the bunch so far has been LEGO Harry Potter, Years 1-4, which managed to follow both the films and books while also giving fans a ton of love with their attention to details. It seemed perfect for LEGO-izing, with magic and a wide cast of characters, but I was disappointed that it only covered half of Harry’s legacy; the developers padded out the experience by giving players Hogwarts, a huge hub to explore that revealed more and more in a Metroidvania style after certain spells and classmates were acquired.

J.K. Rowling finished up all the books way back in 2007, and the money-making films now dead and done until some fool tries to remake them all in like ten years. I’ve never played any of the movie tie-in videogames—though I did have fun flying on brooms and catching Golden Snitches with Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup for the PlayStation 2—but from what I can gather, many of them are not great. Especially the Kinect ones, which tries to turn Harry into a new recruit for Gears of War. LEGO Harry Potter, Years 5-7 could very well be the last greatest game for the franchise, simply because there’s probably not much else coming out for it afterwards.

My favorite thing about the LEGO videogames are that they are perfect for playing co-op. There’s a challenge, sure, but exploring the levels and piecing everything together is more fun with a partner. Like my wife, Tara Abbamondi. Comments from her are in red!

Okay, let’s see if the first hour of LEGO Harry Potter, Years 5-7 is just as magical as the previous game’s.

Airport Mania 2: Wild Trips

Full Review

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

Full Review

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

Full Review

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.

The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition

Full Review

Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition CoverI first played The Secret of Monkey Island about 20 years ago. This was an era of launching games from DOS, Commander Keen, and wheel spinning copy protection. I played the game with my cousin, who would frequently lose the Dial-a-Pirate code wheel forcing us to wildly guess at the game’s opening question.

The Special Edition released in 2009 thankfully does not have any code wheels (or even worse: always-on internet connection), but does feature completely redone high resolution art, a full voice cast, and the same brand of humor fans of the game know and love.

I’m personally a huge fan of the Monkey Island series, with the second holding a very special place in my heart and the third (gasp!) being my favorite. And while I beat the original when I was younger, I never held a lot of nostalgia for it, so this review is actually coming from a fan of the series who likes the first one the least in the trilogy And no, there is no fourth game.

Paul Eastwood originally reviewed the Special Edition two years ago when it was new, I finally got around to beating it this weekend after having it sit in my Steam library since release. Here is my review of The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition.

Cut the Rope

Full Review

cut the Rope CoverI apologize for writing more about mobile games lately than general mainstream console titles. I’m in the middle of moving and sitting down for 15 minutes with Hot Springs Story, Angry Birds, or Cut the Rope is a lot easier than an hour or two with Dragon Age II.

So I’ve been tearing through a series of cheap or free games on the Android, taking advantage of Amazon’s free app of the day and sales on the Market. The great thing about mobile games, even over DS titles, is that they’re so darn cheap, if you don’t like the game, delete it and move on. While I could write a few paragraphs on a game I only gave 15 minutes then promptly deleted, I’d rather focus my energy on games I really enjoyed and believe are worth even their minor asking price.

Cut the Rope recently landed on the Android platform after a successful run on Apple’s iOS, and after first hitting the indie market GetJar for free (supported by ads), it is now on the official Market and Amazon ad-free for a dollar. Here’s my review of Cut the Rope on Android.

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