Purchasing Three or More: Monster Match on the iPhone is a lot like eating a favorite piece of candy. You know exactly what you’re in for, but the sweet familiarity doesn’t dampen your pleasure at all.
Anyone who has ever played a round of Bejeweled will feel right at home as soon as Three or More: Monster Match starts up. Rows of tiles cascade onto the screen, and it’s up to you to find places where you can make a three-in-a-row line of the same tile by switching two of them around on the grid. Scanning the screen for these potential match ups proves to be loads of addictive fun no matter which of the two modes you choose to play – Classic or Timed. In Classic, you have to make as many matches as you can without draining the board of all possible opportunities. If that happens, an owl at the bottom of the screen disappears and you’re given a new set of tiles to work with. After all the owls have been eliminated, you get to see how your score compares to previous attempts.
Timed mode is what I found myself playing most of the time, since it doesn’t have the potential to go on for over the length of a bus ride like Classic. You’re given five minutes and tasked with getting as many points as possible.
All of this is wrapped in a cute monster-themed package. It’s a simple style, but it’s consistent throughout. The music (one song being looped over and over) can be described in a similar way – reminiscent of Halloween themes but lighthearted and fun.
The one real complaint I have with the game is the fact that you can only see the leaderboards after finishing a round. What if I want to check my top score before starting up a game so I know what to shoot for? I’m out of luck. Of course, this isn’t very big of an issue at all. Besides that, there really aren’t any issues with the game, for that matter. The folks at Mighty Fun Apps had a very clear purpose in mind when they were creating Three or More: Monster Match – make a family-friendly, Halloween monster-themed Bejeweled clone and sell it for cheaper than the real Bejeweled. In that respect, it’s a complete success. It’s nothing new, but then again, neither is the second pack of candy that I’m happily gobbling up.
Final Score: 7.5 out of 10
(Reviewed with version 1.01)
The first-person shooter genre is hard to pull off on the iPhone. When it comes to moving, the onscreen “virtual stick” never works perfectly, and aiming is always accomplished through some imprecise method, be it tilting the iPhone or using another virtual stick. As a result, the best FPS games on the iPhone find a way to work around the limitations of the platform and provide something unique. NY Zombies is one of these rare titles – a good FPS on the iPhone.
What sets it apart? First and foremost are the controls: instead of worrying about running around an environment and wrestling with the unavoidably bad controls that would result in, NY Zombies plants the player firmly in one spot while the undead masses of New York City move toward them. Puzzlingly, it is always out in the open where the zombies provide a threat no matter where you turn… (if I was in the same situation, I would probably stand against a wall), but this nevertheless adds to the fun and challenge of this highly enjoyable app.
The story behind the campaign is told only in the level selection screen. You pick a level, and a journal entry pops up, telling part of the main character’s story through zombie-infested New York. It’s standard zombie affair – he sets out to look for missing loved ones, hoping they haven’t been infected, later finding more survivors to team up with, only for them to later turn into zombies themselves… nothing you haven’t seen before. It starts getting interesting towards the end though, to the point that I sincerely wanted to know what would happen next as I read it. However, the story feels very separated from the actual gameplay. Nothing going on in the story really relates to what’s going on in the levels, and this creates some inconsistencies at certain points. For example, one journal entry has the main character complaining about the lack of other survivors, even though in each level you save at least half a dozen of these brainless idiots by letting them run straight into you (usually entering your line of fire in the process). When I save the survivors, what happens to them? Do they just vanish?
That aside, the light-gun gallery gameplay of NY Zombies is very solid. Every level lets you earn cash for each zombie you blast away, so that at the start of the next one you can choose to spend it on new weapons and upgrades. At the beginning of the game, it’s important that you make smart investments in specific things, as some of the levels are many times more difficult to beat without them. In one instance, the lights go out of the apartment you’re holed up in, and unless you have a flare at the ready, your crucial minimap is unusable. Part of the reason NY Zombies succeeds so well is because the levels force you to not only be on your toes defending yourself from 360 degrees of monsters, but also because they require you to make smart decisions about what you spend your money on. That is, until the final handful of levels where you’re earning so much money that you don’t know what to do with it all, but then the levels are fun for a whole different reason – you’re loaded with fun-to-use weapons against the increasing number of enemies. If anything bad can be said about the weapons, it’s that sometimes they can be hard to use with your thumb obscuring the screen. I do realize, however, that this is more of the iPhone’s fault rather than the actual game’s.
While the basic core of the gameplay is unchanged in every level, the steady introduction of new enemy types and your increasingly large arsenal of weapons keeps things feeling fresh. Fresh enough, I might add, that I was able to play this game for extended periods of time without getting bored – something that I can say about only a few iPhone games.
As far as the presentation goes, it’s impressive considering the fact that this the debut game from a four-man development team. The music is atmospheric, and the menus are on par with the big-budget and big-name apps out there. The graphics are not quite at that same level, but they work just fine. The dark lighting does a great job of actually making the zombies scary, which is something that even the Call of Duty zombie game couldn’t pull off on the iPhone.
If you’re not normally one to take chances on games from little known developers, NY Zombies should be the game you break that habit with. It offers the same level of thrills as some of the big-name iPhone games (if not even more), and the lengthy campaign combined with the Endless mode will give you more than enough bang for your buck. NY Zombies is highly recommended.
Pros: One of the finest FPS experiences on the iPhone, fun-to-use weapons, levels that force you to think, great use of lighting, an increasingly interesting story
Cons: Some inconsistencies with the story and the actual levels in the campaign, graphical slowdown shows up every now and then
Final Score: 9 out of 10
Blue Submarine is a game that will pass many people by due to the fact that it is a very low-profile release on the always crowded App Store. And I must admit that there are lots of $1 games that beat this in terms of length, presentation, and overall gameplay. However, for those looking for something a little different or who want to support an independant developer, this may be a game worth checking out.
The first thing you will notice with Blue Submarine is its underwhelming visual quality. It’s clear that team responsible for creating this app consists more of programmers or designers than artists. The models of your submarine, the enemies, and the environments lack any real detail or style. The word I use to describe the graphics is “functional”, because they do paint a picture of what’s going on, but they fail to go beyond that bare minimum.
Luckily the gameplay, the most important part of any game, holds up better under scrunity. This brief game consists of two types of levels, which alternate as you play through it. First are the on-rails levels which place your submarine on a course traveling straight ahead while sharks swim in the opposite direction, towards you. To beat these levels, you have to shoot the required amount of sharks. To complicate things is your life bar, which depletes not only when you are hit by an oncoming shark or you collide with the ground or rocks on the side of the track, but also as time goes on, which leads me to believe that it is some sort of oxygen meter.
The second type of level you face in Blue Submarine, which takes place in a 3-dimensional space that allows you to freely move in any direction, makes use of this meter as well, although this time no sharks appear and time is not your main concern. Instead, enemy submarines and mine-dropping boats top the list of things to watch out for. The submarines can shoot missiles at you, which, if they should hit their target, destroy you in one hit. On the flip side, you are armed with missiles as well, which even have a mild homing ability. Swimming close to an enemy in these levels causes a blue box to appear around them, and when this happens you know any missile you fire will gravitate toward them. The homing isn’t perfect, because you’ll almost always completely miss unless you’re straight behind them. This might sound like a flaw, but I actually think it is the main contributor to the fun factor of these stages, because you’re always persuing these submarines or boats while trying to avoid contact with them or their missiles/mines. Unless of course you take the kamikaze route and collide into those things on purpose, effectively exploding the both of you. That strategy is always fun to pull off when you know you have extra lives to spare.
The mine-dropping boats can sometimes be tougher enemies than the submarines, since the long line of explosives they drop behind themselves force you to find a safe path in which you can approach them. But with some practice, they can be taken down efficiently.
The only other type of enemy appears in the later stages, which is the turret. This stationary device can swivle around once it appears onscreen, for the purpose, of course, of blasting you down. To go along with the introduction of the turret on both the on-rails and and 3-dimensional levels is the shield, which creates a protective bubble around you for a limited time.
While there are only two different types of challenges you’ll face in Blue Submarine, the steady ramp in difficulty and implementation of new enemies keeps the game feeling fresh as it goes along. It isn’t very lengthy – I was able to beat the whole thing in around ten minutes – but it is something I found myself returning to. It lacks in presentation, which I imagine will turn many people off to it right when they see the first screenshots. For their next game, I’d advise the developer of Blue Submarine to find an artist to help them out and a composer to make a better soundtrack than what this game offers – one awkwardly looped drum track on the main menu. With these problems aside however, I feel like there’s enough in the game to give it a thumbs up. Blue Submarine is cool little action title with tight controls and a unique design. For that, it deserves a look.
Pros: Tight controls, cool design, good pace
Cons: Poor visuals, not much of a soundtrack, very short
Final Score: 6.1 out of 10
BONUS – WIN A PROMO CODE FOR BLUE SUBMARINE!!
The developer of Blue Submarine was kind enough to send us two promo codes for their game, but I ended up only needing one. So, the first person to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org asking for the extra code will get it! Good luck!
Is a 10 minute session with a display iPad at Best Buy enough to write an impressions post? If you don’t think so, get out of here and go read your fancy high-class reviews on all those “real” websites. Sheesh.
For everybody else, allow me to briefly explain what was going through my mind as I used the iPad: Yep, it’s really just an oversized iPod Touch. A nicely backlit one, I might add, but essentially not much more. All the same buttons were on the sides of the device – volume control, that screen turn off thing, and of course the home button that takes you out of whatever app you were using and returns you to your library of apps. Speaking of the apps, they reminded me quite a bit of the iPod Touch’s because, well, they were the iPod Touch’s.
For the most part. A lot of the apps I saw had “HD” at the end of their names, which was pretty much their way of saying, “Hey, this doesn’t just look like a blown up version of something that was obviously meant for a much smaller screen.” These iPad-optimized apps fill up the screen quite nicely, but when you get down to it, they don’t do anything that an iPhone or iPod Touch can’t already do.
Also, you have to keep in mind that the iPad apps are much more expensive than their smaller iDevice counterparts. Sure, Plants vs. Zombies looks better with a bigger screen, but do I really want to pay $7 more just for that? Granted, you CAN buy the cheaper version even if you have an iPad, but then you’re left with a low quality picture.
Firing up the app store, I only saw mention of iPad applications, both on the featured page and the top sellers page. In fact, only after I searched for my favorite iPhone apps in the search bar did I find them. Developers of hit iPhone apps are scrambling right now to make iPad versions, so I’m sure for the first few weeks the App Store will see sloppy ports aplenty.
What the iPad improves on more than anything, and what it really is the embodiment of, is presentation. Everything looks sleeker, but nothing seems better. At a massive raise in price and loss of portability, the iPad leaves me with the question, “Why?” Of course, it doesn’t matter what I think, because the countless Apple fanboys have already snatched one up and are ceaselessly defending it on online message boards as we speak. “No Flash or multitasking?” they say, addressing but the beginning of a long list of issues, “that’s not a problem!” But when you’re paying $500 minimum, I beg to differ.
Oh, where do I start with Mach Ball? For starters, it’s not a terrible app; but to put it simply, it isn’t very much fun to play.
For starters, the interface is a joke. The translation is incredibly poor to the point that the options are sometimes difficult to understand. For example, after finishing a level, the message “Title Screen for tap” appears. Ah Mach Ball, do we need to go over basic English grammar? No, we SHOULDN’T however we clearly must. This alone isn’t going to immediately end your enjoyment of the app but the mistakes are frequent enough that it WILL distract you and take from the fun of the game.
However, that’s where the positive side kicks in: Mach Ball IS an interesting concept which, had it been implemented better, could be very fun. The point of the game is to use multi-tap to draw lines on the screen which your ball will bounce off of and guide it to the goal. Problems begin with the performance of the game, which is less than stellar. It runs at a consistent frame rate but, that rate just isn’t very high. The gameplay feels sluggish and the physics also seem just off enough to bother you. Your ball will occasionally veer off in seemingly random directions when it collides with one of your drawn lines. Also, the game doesn’t do a good job of showing you where you’re supposed to deliver the ball so you often find yourself bouncing it wildly around the stage until you find the path you’re supposed to take.
It’s just not much fun. The grating sound effects don’t help either. Music is nonexistant and the little dinging noises that the ball makes when it ricochets off of something will get old very quickly. You DO however have the option of listening to your own music, which is nice, but no reason that they should entirely omit any music of their own.
The last point I feel I should touch on is the fact that there are only five levels which last 30 seconds to one minute each. The app is currently priced at $1 which in and of itself isn’t much, but there are so many wonderful AND cheap apps out there that I can find no reason to recommend this to anybody. If at any point the app is offered for free, give it a shot, you may find the “interesting” gameplay addictive enough to replay the pitiful five levels, but otherwise, this is one application you’ll want to steer clear of.
Final Score: 3 out of 10
Be free from this game, or die of boredom playing it
Sometimes something just sounds too good to be true. Take Be Free or Die for example. Right of the bat, the phrase “Zombies 3D FPS” that sits next to the app’s title gets any hardcore gamer interested. “Is it true?” they wonder, looking at the 99 cent price. “There’s actually a 3D FPS on the iPhone for a dollar?” Then they’ll look at the info page and see these descriptions of the game… descriptions that I will now discredit one by one:
Bosses at the end of every level
This much is true, but they act just the same as all the other zombies, and there are only two of these bosses over five levels – one repeated for the first four, and one for the last level.
Impressive 3D graphics
If you are impressed by these graphics, it’s about time you moved to the year 2010, or at least 1994. Seriously, these graphics would have been considered terrible as a Playstation 1 launch game. And somehow they still manage to stutter!
Five different levels each with their own objective to complete
If “their own objective” means “they are all the same”, then yes, this is right. You must kill an unspecified number of zombies (a counter keeps track of how many you have killed, but I would much rather see how many I have left) and then the boss (for most of the levels, a most unintimidating devil) appears somewhere on the map. Finding him is as much of a chore as finding all the other zombies that you have to kill to get to him. The draw distance is so laughably bad that you won’t be able to see the zombies until they are about 5 feet away from you – many times after they appear out of thin air. This is far from alarming however, as they all too frequently get stuck on some invisible object, preventing them from killing you. So, you would assume you can go up to them and take a cheap shot at them, but sometimes the zombie is further glitched into a state of invincibility. Once you realize this, you just have to spin around a few times (no easy task thanks to the sluggish controls) and you’ll likely see him magically disappear, as well as find a couple other zombies magically appear in a spot that was empty half a second before.
Multiple weapon types
When I hear “multiple weapon types”, I think of a good variety of pistols, shotguns, machine guns, launchers, and maybe a melee weapon or two. The last thing I expect is literally five re-skinned versions of the same gun. Which of the automatic guns you pick from doesn’t matter, because they all function on an equally clunky level. I can’t stress enough how the weapons are actually the same thing apart from sound and cosmetic differences. Oh sorry, except for the hidden gun that you get for rating the game on iTunes. Probably the only good idea in the Be Free or Die, you can unlock an RPG if you give the game a review on the App Store so that this pile of crap can get the illusion that it’s actually respectable. However, the zombies won’t die from a head-on shot from this supposed “most powerful weapon in the game”. Read that again: The regular zombies can survive a direct hit from an RPG. Do I need to say more?
Different music tracks (or no music to listen to your own music)
I have been correcting the capitalization errors that have appeared so far in this app’s official descriptions, but not the egregious sentence structure. That aside, I honestly don’t remember ANY music whatsoever from this game, and I spent way more time playing this than it deserved. I can imagine why you would want to listen to your own music in the background, actually. The gameplay is so boring that you need something else going on to avoid falling asleep. As I mentioned before, the zombies don’t appear until you are right next to them, so you spend most of your time in a level traversing the horrid environments looking for one to shoot. Not cool.
Recently updated controls. Check options and choose which suit you.
Once again for the capitalization errors (corrected here), but the first time for the periods. Why? Is it too much to ask for a little consistency? You either put periods in or not! Back on subject, the alternate control methods are barely any different, and none work very smoothly. That’s part of the iPhone’s problem, but also part of the game’s problem for having the wholly unnecessary ability to look up and down. The zombies always appear straight across from you, so the y-axis only serves to disorient and frustrate you. Good luck getting it centered again once you’ve touched it just one time.
Sensitivity adjustment for controls
No matter what you pick, it’s not going to be a smooth experience.
Four different control schemes to fit every gamer!
Enough with the controls already! They’re bad! Stop acting like the more you promote them, the better they’ll be!
An experience unparalleled on the App Store!
Have you ever heard of something called Call of Duty: World at War: Zombies? It’s pretty much the concept you were going for, but it exceeds this trash in every way imaginable, price considered.
If you insist on buying a zombie-related FPS for your iPhone, THIS IS NOT THE WAY TO GO. The developers obviously didn’t know what they were doing, but it’s evident that they didn’t even try! Want proof? There is a money system in the game that serves no purpose. I’m not making that up – I think they seriously forgot they put it into the game. If the developers won’t even spend the time to finish their game, there is no reason you should. Don’t let curiosity fool you like it did me into wasting a buck on this – it’s really that bad.
Cons: Just copy and paste the entire review into this category
Final Score: 1.0 out of 10
All sorts of trials await you in vParticle
The great thing about the Apple App Store’s gaming selection is that, somewhere in the absurdly large catalog, there’s bound to be something unique that fits your tastes. Take a game like vParticle, for example. You probably won’t ever see a game like this appear on another handheld like the DS or PSP. There are a few reasons for this – apart from the absence of an accelerometer on those consoles (an essential device for vParticle), this title probably wouldn’t get the love it deserves from publishers because of how it goes out of its way to satisfy a very specific niche market.
That market would be the fan of labyrinth games – you know, the kind of game where you have to guide a ball through a maze and into a hole. vParticle not only embraces that concept with a crazy amount of levels, but ups the ante by asking you to guide not only one ball, but fifty. Yes, fifty of these “particles” must be navigated through increasingly complex environments by the tilt of your iPhone. The levels are composed of a series of blocks, each usually with some special attribute. Some blocks move in a set pattern, some only move when you touch them, others appear and disappear when touched, and the like. Other things affect your particles in unique ways – the vents send them flying off in a specific direction, the time boxes slow them down to a crawl, and the acid instantly disintegrates the particles.
When particles are disintegrated or crushed by two blocks, they are sent back to the start of the level, while all the surviving red dots stay where they were at. This of course leads to you having to essentially repeat the level over again in order to get all your particles in the goal box. And yes, you must get ALL of your particles in the goal box to finish the level. It gets frustrating very fast when you have only three or four dots preventing you from finishing the rather lengthy levels, and when one of those three or four gets destroyed and you have to restart AGAIN… you come to my biggest issue with vParticle. I’m all for replayability in my games, but when you have to do the same level over and over again just because of a small handful of stray particles, you’ll be wondering why you’re even bothering to. [EDIT: The developers of vParticle sent me an email to tell me that you actually only need to get half of the particles into the goal (unless you’re playing one of the challenging “X Levels”), and then you can tap on the box to finish the level. I’ve suggested a way for them to make this more obvious in a future update, and you can now know that my opinion of this game has been raised a bit now that I’ve realized it isn’t as annoying as I previously thought.] It doesn’t help that many levels have several spots that require you to wait for a certain block to move out of your way before you can proceed. Patience is absolutely necessary to keep this app open for more than a minute or two on your iPhone.
Getting to that “E” won’t be as easy as it appears… invisible boxes will pop up to complicate the path to the finish
The physics behind the particles are great, but understandably, they don’t feel entirely realistic. If I had 50 red dots in a container in front of me in real life, and I tipped it upside down all of a sudden, I would expect the particles to instantly drop to the other side – faster than I could even tell. In vParticle, there’s a slight delay from when you make a motion and when it actually starts happening. Sure, you can flip your iPhone over and watch them fall, but be prepared for a short pause in which the physics program is figuring out what exactly needs to be done. For such a small independent team, though, they really did an impressive job with how the particles react to the accelerometer. Just to show off their physics, they even included “sandbox” levels, where there’s no goal or way to finish. It’s up to you to have fun moving around the particles in the setting.
If you’re crazy for labyrinth games, I don’t know how you could do any better than vParticle. There are shortcomings, but now that this game is free, (I’d have recommended it even at the $1 price tag before) there’s really no reason to not give it a look if guiding things through mazes interests you. I’ve had it for a while, so I can tell you that updates come regularly. As a result, I don’t think it’s unrealistic to expect more skins for the stages or (hopefully) a level editor in the future. If you fit the labyrinth-loving niche the developers of vParticle were going after, you’re sure to be entertained by their solid app.