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)
Sony has once again helped in producing a game using the motto: Play, Create, Share. In the game players take the role of a little customizable mod to race in a Mario Kart-like racer. There are four different types of power-ups (lightning, rockets, speed boosts, and sonic booms) with three levels of effectiveness. There are several different ways to race including quick race against computer mods, career mode, split screen, split screen online, and just regular online races. I’ll start off talking about the most frustrating mode referred to as career mode.
The concept of the career mode is to rise up from a slightly experienced driver to become a ModNation Racer champion. The commentators that talk during and in between races add a sense of humor to the game that feels right. Along with completing the obvious task of winning each race, there is the added challenge of objectives like taking down three different people on the bridge in order to unlock more items for customization. The problem with this is it is really hard to do both with the CPU always on your tail. I have come within inches at times of winning the race and all of a sudden I would get destroyed by lightning and I would end up in fourth place. This becomes very aggravating at times. Once you do win a race you have to wait through unnecessarily long load times that can take a step back from the high pace action you experience during the race. Although these can be two disappointing aspects to the game there are plenty of things that make this game great. One such aspect that it steps up in is split screen. There are hardly any splitscreen mulitplayer games on the PS3 compared to the PS2 and United Front games delivers this exactly how you would expect it to be, but with your neighbors. When it comes to online play, it seems to me that the people you are facing are a lot more balanced compared to the CPU which leads to a more enjoyable experience.
The part that becomes the heart to the game is the customization. The shear amount of content it provides to make the game your own is amazing. The first thing you can customize is the characters themselves. They can be dressed in all sorts of skins and sticks that are unlocked in the campaign mode. Modding the kart can be changed in the same ways as the characters allowing for such things as different body kits to adding a satellite to the front of the car. Finally comes the track creation which can be the most complex. Although creators can be very complex when creating a track, even the most basic creators can make great tracks using features like auto populate to add a little bit of spice to the levels; something which was hard to do in LittleBigPlanet. For those of you who usually draw stick figures when creating people there is always the option to download other players’ creations which can be pretty spectacular. There have been such things as Mario and Iron Man to the Mystery Machine and a Ferrari. All and all this game has loads of features that will keep you playing for hours.
Pros: Replay Value, Customization, Wide Variety of Content, and Epic Races
Cons: Load Times and Rubber Band Like CPU
Final Score: 9.1 out of 10
Whenever a list of the greatest Dreamcast, Gamecube, or space shooter games is created, there’s always one title that pops up: Ikaruga. Still, it’s a game that has lived in obscurity, and undeservedly so. When it was released a few years back on the Xbox Live Arcade, the veil of mystery surrounding this legendary game lifted just a bit, as many more people were given a chance to experience it. I was one of those people who hopped on to the Ikaruga fan train after playing this XBLA port, and I’m here now to tell you why.
The space shooter genre is now popular mostly among hardcore players who aren’t afraid of a serious challenge. I missed the Super Nintendo/Genesis/Arcade heyday of these games, and have never found them all too appealing. However, I was willing to give Ikaruga a look because of the fact that it was developed by Treasure, who I consider to be my favorite game developer. Sure enough, after playing the trial version of the game the week it came out, I knew I had to buy it.
Believe it or not, this is one of the easier parts
Ikaruga is unique from other space shooters in that there is a polarity system in the gameplay. Basically, your ship’s polarity can switch between black and white at the push of a button. The enemies are all a specific color, as are their bullets. Your ship is immune to bullets of the same color, and if you shoot an enemy of the opposite color, you do double the damage you would if you were shooting them with the same color. There is a lot onscreen to juggle when you play Ikaruga: first, you have to make sure you aren’t running into anybody or any obstacles. Second, you have to keep in mind what color your ship is and know when best to switch. It actually doesn’t take all that long to grasp the polarity concept, allowing new players to have an enjoyable time even when they are getting destroyed by the relentless onslaught.
As is the case with most of Treasure’s games, Ikaruga is not very long. It’s entirely possible to experience the whole thing in one session, although getting all the way to the end without seeing at least one Game Over takes no small amount of practice. Luckily, the game can be tweaked to accommodate players who haven’t yet mastered the art of a full-combo, flawless Ikaruga run. In the options menu you can choose from three difficulty levels, lower the amount of points necessary to gain a new life, and turn on continues (trust me, you’ll want to do that). Additionally, the more you play the game, the more continue credits you unlock. So while none of these things changes the fact that Ikaruga is a brutally difficult game, they keep it from becoming frustrating and unfair.
This is a game that begs to be played more than once. There’s almost always a better way to complete a level due to the combo system, which awards extra points for players who destroy ships of a single color three times in a row. Also, a hidden mode known as “Dot Eater” challenges players to make it through the levels without firing a single bullet, completely changing the way you approach each stage. The game can be played cooperatively as well if you plug in a second controller, where you and your friend will benefit from each other’s shared firepower while drawing from the same supply of continues. If none of your friends are up to the challenge, you can always look for a partner over Xbox Live, although it is very rare that I ever find anybody online to play with.
There is a reason Ikaruga is such a legendary game. Few space shooters are this challenging and yet so accessible, allowing players of all sorts of skill levels to enjoy the masterfully crafted levels. If you still haven’t given this game a look, try the trial version on Xbox Live or hunt it down for the Gamecube or Dreamcast and get ready for a crazy but satisfying ride.
Pros: Accessible yet challenging, well designed levels, unique polarity system, tight controls, great soundtrack, multiplayer
Cons: Short length, nonsensical story, requires more patience than some casual players may be willing to give
Final Score: 9.2 out of 10
There is a reason that there are more die-hard fans for Nintendo than any other video game company, and that is because of the revolutionary, generation-defining, and magical games they put out every so often. When the first Super Mario Galaxy was released, it was met with unanimous praise. However, even when Super Mario Galaxy 2 was announced, fans couldn’t help but wonder if the sequel would just feel like a half-baked level pack that got cut out of the first game. I’ll admit that I can’t compare the two games because I never played the original, but I can most definitely assure you that Super Mario Galaxy 2 does not feel like a collection of rejected ideas. Far from it.
The Mario games have never put storytelling forward, and even though Galaxy 2 is the same in this regard, it doesn’t stand out as a fault. The game opens up with a picture book explaining the setup. It seems typical enough until all of a sudden you’re given control over what you thought would be a still image and the impromptu gameplay that results acts as your tutorial. Unexpected polish like this can be found in almost every aspect of the game, and as a result the quality of the presentation takes a firm spot at the very top of the Wii’s library of titles. The graphics are fantastic and the numerous environments that you experience during the adventure all offer their own unique way of dropping your jaw in awe. Considering the non-high definition hardware Galaxy 2 is running on, this is all the more impressive.
Something else whose high quality threw me off was the music. Not everything is orchestrated, but the songs that are give the game an epic feel. The melodies of the new songs written for this game are memorable and the rearranged versions of old tunes are a pleasure to listen to. Some songs are light and playful while others are grand and powerful. The music always fits what’s going on, but the compositions go the extra mile and provide not just background noise, but fantastic music that could be easily listened to outside of the game. (Now only if Nintendo would release the soundtrack over in North America…)
The controls take advantage of the Wii remote in the best way they can. Mario is controlled with the analog stick on the nunchuck while an onscreen cursor (moved by the Wii remote) can be used to collect star bits (innumerable little objects similar to the coins seen in every other Mario game) as well as shoot them at enemies. All of the other maneuvers Mario has picked up in both his 3D and 2D games throughout the years such as the ground pound and wall jump (among other things) make an appearance, and they have never controlled better. The 3D Mario games have not always had the tight controls of the 2D ones, but with Galaxy 2 that trend has ended. Whenever I died in the game, it was because of a wrong move or a tough enemy – never because of a finicky camera or unresponsive controller. Simply navigating the environments is a joy, which goes a long way toward making the game fun.
The true genius of Super Mario Galaxy 2 lies in the level designs, which are some of the most well-thought-out and creative I have ever seen. Almost every one has its own unique gameplay hook, which keeps the game engaging throughout the entire adventure. The levels throw out the laws of physics, gravity, and conventional video game platforming to create experiences that are both fun and highly original. Just when you think you have seen it all, a new crazy environment pops up to blow your mind yet again.
Added to these levels are a variety of new power-up suits, which give Mario all sorts of unique abilities. One turns him into a ghost, one lets him fly around like a bee, another changes Mario into a rolling boulder, and another gives the plumber the ability to create cloud platforms right below him, just to name a few. Yoshi makes an appearance as well and with him comes a whole new set of challenges and power-ups. Mario games have always set the standard for the platforming genre, and with Galaxy 2, you wonder how much higher that bar can be raised.
If there are any problems with the game, it would be in the pacing. The levels you play are chosen from a world map, and many times the way forward is blocked until you collect a set number of stars. Most levels offer a handful of attainable stars, so you’ll find yourself forced to revisit many levels you had previously beaten in order to collect as many as you can. Luckily, many times the levels’ layouts will completely change if you choose to go for a different star, providing a good balance between familiar elements and completely new trials when you end up playing through that level again. However, my problem was that I would have to find so many extra stars to advance through the game that I felt like it was grinding to a halt. I wanted to see a completely new environment – not revisit an old one. Even though I would essentially be playing a different level when I went for a new star in an old level, I still felt a slight bit of annoyance at this.
That’s a minor gripe, though. In the end, I walked away from Super Mario Galaxy 2 with a renewed faith in Nintendo and the Wii. This game may not yet have the nostalgia attached to it that makes some of the older Mario‘s so much more dear to me, but this is certainly the best Mario platformer I have ever played. I can easily imagine that 15 years from now a whole new generation of gamers will collectively list Super Mario Galaxy 2 at the top of their most-loved childhood games. This experience is absolutely not to be missed by anyone who owns a Wii. I’d even go so far as to say that Galaxy 2 is worth buying a Wii for. And I’d add that in the future, people will have a hard time wanting to get rid of their Wii because of how great this is. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is truly a game that will be cherished for years and years to come.
Pros: Incredible level desgin, great controls, fantastic soundtrack, finely tuned level of difficulty, top-notch visuals, polished in every aspect
Cons: Pacing slows down when you’re forced to backtrack through levels
Final Score: 9.7 out of 10
Ah hey there, this would just so happen to be my first “official” post for the Frayed Wire blog. My buddy Josh set me up so that I could give you some thoughts on Halo: Reach.
Without further ado:
In my quite honest opinion, Halo: Reach is going to be one hullava game. This is, considering I got my first perfection today!
When I first started the demo after downloading it, I had no idea what to expect. The opening video made my mouth water. When searching matchmaker, I found, to my complete dislike, that the servers were down!! This left me rather upset considering I had specifically gone to do something else while it downloaded fully expecting to be able to play it right then on Monday the 3rd. So when I noticed that the servers were down for some reason, I quickly raced to Bungie.net to see what the heck is going on. I wasn’t surprised to see a post from Bungie about their servers being down from the massive horde that is their fan base. So, I went on, for a few more hours without the Beta, until finally the servers were back online!
I couldn’t wait for my first game on the Beta. I was playing with an old friend of mine who had told me the servers were back up, and so we went. The first game was 1-Flag CTF, which is just a fancy way of saying Capture your enemy’s flag without having to worry about one of your own, unless you’re defending. I figured a +2 on my Kills-deaths was pretty good for a first match. I had to learn to crawl in the game, but I was soon running by the end, using the “stalker” class and going ninja on all of the Red team baddies. So, we won which left me on a very good note to go ahead on my own to see how to best survive in this world where the best reign and the flag-whores die.
So far, the few things I dislike the most about Reach have already been addressed for the final release of it for the fall. So I’m not in a bad mood about it, but I’ll give you what I think about nearly every element in Halo: Reach.
The DMR is a sucky replacement for the BR, but quite honestly, I like it much, much better. I’m so happy to have something close to the Halo: Combat Evolved pistol back!! The Assault rifle also sounds like a popcorn popper, but kicks more ass than its Halo 3 counterpart. I like that now the weapons have legit recoil, or visible recoil while aiming. SWAT is now much harder but twice as fun as spamming BR bursts across the map.
The Covie weapons, such as the Plasma repeater, I think, are much better balanced and tweaked than the Halo 3 ones. In Halo 3 no one wanted Covie weapons, save the plasma pistol for certain situations. The Needler may seem like it takes more needles, but it tracks better and has longer range than the sucky excuse for one in Halo 3. The two things wrong with the Covie weapons are that I WANT MY CARBINE BACK(!!!) and the plasma launcher which is beyond overpowered (however I do enjoy using it ;D).
As for the vehicles, the turrets now overheat and the warthog turret has been nerfed. For some reason, every other explosive weapon has an EMP. How do you put an EMP into a 40mm grenade? Not to mention the vehicles killed by only tactical nukes (Ahem, grenades). When tanks need less damage to be destroyed than the Warthog, you know something is up. When your land options fail, bring back the Banshee(!!), as it now has the fuel rod cannon re-added to it, but a good amount of maneuverability reduced, which isn’t that bad. Just watch out for the airborne enemies, they’ll be sort of like those frozen chickens the Mythbusters shot at a plane a while back (They’ll knock you right out of the sky).
The classes/abilities are fairly well done, except for the armor lock, which definitely needs some tweaking because it seems as though they have an overshield right after the lock wears off. Not to mention I disliked the map Sword Base until I got the hang of the jetpack, because it’s built around a single class which is a VERY bad thing. Now Bungie should start making, or tweak maps so that they’re not so one-sided to a single class/ability. My final concern with the classes is the ability to roll/sprint and immediately melee someone, similar to MW2 (which I dislike greatly) with people running around knifing everyone.
As for Invasion, the only thing that allows you to win as Elites is nothing but a good team and dumb luck. If the defending team has any kind of wits about them, you’ll hardly get the core out of their base in enough time. Most of the time they’ll all be launching grenades at you via the class that has that such weapon. Invasion is currently the only map that has vehicles in the Beta for Halo: Reach.
Overall I just cannot wait until it comes out. Until then I’ll be sitting on my grab bag tea-bagging noobs.
Nuwbz (G.T. iSh0cKu)~ Over and out.
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!