Every month for a while now, IGN.com has done something extremely cool for its readers. They have partnered with different publishers of mobile games to give away download codes for free copies of their games, sometimes running all month, sometimes while supplies last. Regardless, there is no catch, nothing you have to sign up for or participate in. Just hit the "get free code" button on the article posting, and it will generate a download code that you type in to the iTunes store or the Android Marketplace, and VIOLA! Free games right to your phone or tablet.
It's actually pretty awesome, as they have yielded some legit, good games, not just any run of the mill games that show up free every other month on their own. Some of them I have already used and wrote about for this blog, but this month, the game came out with perfect timing, as I was able to download it and put it on my iPad just before I left to the beach for the weekend, where any sort of cell service or Wi-Fi was hard to come by. Despite having games on my Vita to play, and since my 3DS is still being held hostage (although it was along for the ride), I planned on playing two games on my iPad specifically for this blog. Both are relatively big games, but both I got for free. Nothing wrong with free, good games, right?
The first game was Batman: Arkham City Lockdown, which I honestly didn't even know existed until I saw it being given away for free by IGN. Anything associated with Batman, however, should be on my radar, especially anything having to do with the Arkham franchise. Arkham Asylum and Arkham City are two superb games that completely redefined how comic books or superheros can make the transition to video games successfully, and are no considered the gold standard for that genre.
I obviously didn't expect Arkham City Lockdown to be as good as those games, or like those games as far as open world exploration goes, but I knew they wouldn't associate the Arkham franchise with this game if it didn't do a serviceable job of upholding the brand that's already established. Well, it definitely isn't like the Arkham games at all, other than it is a prequel to "City", I guess, and the character models are spot-on. There is no exploration, no storyline really. You're just Batman, and you go from mission to mission, beating up different groups of thugs using the touch controls. Taping, swiping and trying combos gets you from enemy to enemy. Pretty straight forward.
Sure, you can unlock different costumes and gadgets to make the fights more interesting, but stripped down and it is just a generic touch-controlled fighter. It looks amazing, and because it's Batman, I have no real complaints. However, this type of game, while impressive on the iPad, is very telling as to why I don't ever foresee tablet or mobile gaming completely eliminating the need for handheld consoles. The inclusion of buttons on handhelds will always keep them relevant to gamers, as they just add so much more functionality and possibilities to games. Sure, touch screen controls can enhance a game, but they can't carry a game as far as gamers would like.
Even if it is Batman.
I swear, I have no idea how I stumble upon the games I do, or why exactly I get drawn into them so easily sometimes, especially when they probably have no business ever seeing the light of day on this blog. I really wish I could explain it, but it's like these games have a way of finding me, catching me off guard and hypnotizing me into playing them waaaaay longer than I should. That of course leads to me having to write about them, because most likely I'll never put the same amount of time in during the course of a day as I would the first day, if I ever go back to them again, that is.
I can't even remember how I found out about ColorMania today. Somehow, somewhere I came across it, and was immediately intrigued. The tagline for the game posed the question: "Recognize this character? Think you can color him?" Of course, they showed a black and grey version of a silhouetted Mario, which right off the bat means that I am interested. But the concept that they posed intrigued me as well. Sure, I, like many Americans, consider myself pretty familiar with brands and especially their logos. We see them all the time, all over the place, every day, all day. Brands and logos are everywhere we look, and I didn't think I would have any problem identifying them.
But would I remember the exact colors for them? My initial thought was yes, of course I could. Yet the more I thought about it, I started second-guessing myself on how accurately I could remember exact colors. Seems easy to do, until you try it. So I did. I downloaded ColorMania for my phone, for free, and started playing. And by started playing, I mean I played almost up until I reach triple digits in the images.
They give you a black and grey image each time. Some are logos, some are characters, but all are pretty recognizable. Underneath you have a pallet of colors to choose from, in which you simply tap on a color you think is in the picture and hope for the best. Finish the picture and move on to the next, but get a color wrong and you lose a heart, the equivalent of a life. Once you run out of lives, you are forced to sit and wait for the chance to regain some life by spinning what looks to be a Wheel of Fortune wheel. With more lives, you can continue on. And the process repeats as long as you want it to.
One thing important to remember is that the higher levels you go, the longer the cool-down period is before you can get back any lives. Where I finally stopped, it was a 25 minute wait to keep playing, where as the first few rounds, it was only like 10 seconds. The better you get, the more you have to wait when you're wrong. At that point though, you're hooked, and the wait seems reasonable. The catch is that if you are impatient, you can buy extra lives with your own personal, hard-earned real life money. Of course I haven't paid a single penny towards this game, but it is the perfect example of how archaic the free-to-play model really is. Not only that, but every 5 pictures or so, you are bombarded with an ad for Candy Crush ... of all things!
I'm telling you folks, Plants vs. Zombies 2 is doing this new school free-to-play method perfectly, and I hope more games follow suit and drop this business that ColorMania is running on. Overall, however, it's a fun little game that will definitely test your memory, and your allegiance to this great country of ours. Or something like that.
It's about time. No, literally, it's about freaking time. And no, I'm not just talking about the sub-title for this game, I'm actually saying that it's about time we see a follow up to one of the most popular, well-liked and recognizable games of the last few years: Plants vs. Zombies.
Finally, Plants vs. Zombies 2 was released world wide, and I couldn't be happier.
While it's essentially the same type of game as the first smash-hit, there are several very noticeable differences in this follow up, some of which will take those who haven't been following too closely to the development of this game, by surprise. All in all, it's still Plants vs. Zombies, through and through, and that's a good thing. A really good thing.
First of all, the game is free. No, not just because it's a limited-time promotion or something, as if they were giving it away for the first couple of weeks to gain momentum and hype for the game. It's actually a free game, now and going forward to the foreseeable future. It is one hundred percent free, with a small caveat of course. You see, it is technically a free-to-play game, with the difference being that you don't actually ever have to pay a dime to play this game, continue this game, or complete this game. The entire game - every single bit of it that is available as of launch - can be unlocked in-game, for free. Sure, you can pay money if you so choose, for power-ups, in-game currency or to unlock new levels, but you honestly don't have to. The pay wall is essentially in place for people who are either impatient and don't want to put in the work to unlock everything, or for people who just aren't very good at the game.
Either way, if you have patience and skill and want to put in the time, everything is available without payment. Rejoice and breathe easy, people. This game isn't a cash grab, at least for the most part.
Honestly though, it deserves some money, because you can tell a lot of work and love went in to the making of this game. For what the game is, the graphics are absolutely gorgeous and crisp looking, and make the older game look completely dated, in comparison. On the iPhone 5, it is fantastic, but on the iPad with the retina display? Holy cow, does it show off details I never noticed before, much less thought would have been important until I saw them in this game.
Oh, and by the way, this is iOS exclusive. Sorry, Android users!
So you're probably curious about the whole unlocking thing, right? Well, you do so by collecting stars, and using the stars to unlock secret paths and new levels that lead to all the power-ups and unlockables that you could essentially buy if you wanted to. You collect the stars by going back to previously-beaten levels and completely new and unique challenges in each level, like beating the level with only specific plants, or not allowing the oncoming zombie hoard past a specific place on the map. Collect enough stars from challenges, and viola! No payment necessary.
Speaking of zombies, the many different types of new zombies they added makes the game feel fresh and something you have to figure out all over again. There is also Plant Food in the game, which you can give to any of your plants to give them a boost, aiding your attempt to defeat the zombies. You can buy plant food if you want, or you can just collect it in-game from defeating the glowing zombies that drop the plant food when they fall victim to your horticulture barrage.
Overall, it is fantastic follow up to a game I own on more platforms than I can count. It took far too long for the game to come out, but I'm glad it finally did. And I'm glad they took the free-to-play model and did it their own way, by thanking the die-hard PVZ fans with a ridiculously awesome, completely free game. I hope this is the start of a revolution for this gaming model.
First of all, I want to explain the reason for the little, lesser-known handheld games I have been playing and writing about the last couple of days. I really don't need to explain them, but I feel having some context is something I owe my wonderful readers. I don't know why I feel like that, I guess I just don't want anyone to feel like I am cutting corners or being untrue to the nature of this blog, especially any new readers who haven't been there from the beginning.
I had a weekend vacation up in Seattle, Washington, and while I was trying to enjoy myself and my company as much as possible, I did have some time to play some games. Mainly, that time included the drive up to Seattle, and the drive back, where I was the passenger due to car sickness of my partner-in-crime from not driving. So with that, I got to go along for the ride, as they say, and play games while I was at it.
I had my 3DS with me, but somehow managed to forget to pack it after I was done playing Dokuro Friday afternoon. I of course had my phone, but I also managed to remember my iPad, which I haven't spent as much time on as I would like. But hey, it's been fun when I do manage to squeeze in play time with it.
With that, I decided to play a game on my iPad that I downloaded a few days ago, but had yet to try. Amateur Surgeon 3: Tag Team Trauma was free, for some reason, on the iOS store, and seeing as how much I have enjoyed Adult Swim games as of late, figured it was at least worth a try. I had never played an Amateur Surgeon game before hand, so I had no real context for what I was getting in to. With a game like this, it actually makes it a more fun experience now that I think about it.
In case you are like me, and have never played one of these games before, the premise is simple. You are an amateur surgeon, and you're asked to perform wacky and zany "operations" in order to save a wide variety of characters that come to see you for some strange reason, seeing as how the instruments you use aren't exactly the most sterile or most appropriate tools for the job. A pizza cutter is a serviceable item when slicing an assortment of things, but making incisions on a human body in place of a scalpel isn't exactly standard practice, as far as I know.
You are scored based on how well you perform precise actions (think of the board game, Operation), and lose bonus multipliers for each wrong or sloppy maneuver. There is also a time limit in each level, topped off with the looming presence of the heart rate monitor, because no matter how bizarre the game is, you still don't want to let your trusting patients die, now do you? At the end of the level you get 1-3 stars for completing it, after which you can go back and play it again, picking between one of two bonus stars to go after for completing bonus challenges, like finishing the surgery in a minute or less, or doing the entire process without one mishap. The more stars you unlock, the more levels you can advance to, which makes replayability a must if you want to advance the game. Luckily, the further into the game you go, the better you get at it, so playing the earlier levels again seems a lot easier the second and third times around.
Overall, I got through a lot more levels than I really thought I would, as it had that "just one more level" feel to it. Any game that can get me to worry about scores and rankings and stars has done something good in my book. Adult Swim, keep it up. You're doing it right.
It is very rare that games successfully make the transition from mobile game (iOS, Android, etc.) over to consoles or handhelds, without being a straight cash grab. Sure, a lot of mobile games make their way to PC gaming, but to consoles or handheld consoles? Not very often at all. Angry Birds tried it, and ended up charging consumers 10 times the amount to play on their consoles. Like I said, cash grab.
When I saw Draw Slasher appear on the PS Vita as a downloadable title, I was wearing for this fact. Not to say it wasn't a good game and unworthy of gracing the beautiful screen of the Vita, because I worried it would be nothing more than an attempt for the developer to sucker in fans of the iOS game and charge them an exuberant amount more to play it on their Vitas.
So I didn't buy it originally. I waited, and ultimately forgot it existed. That is, until it popped up on a PSN sale, with the price being slashed for PS+ subscribers. At only a couple of bucks, which wasn't much more than the iOS version, I figured it was a worthy investment finally. Besides, I've wasted more money than that for the purpose of getting trophies before.
The thing is, it isn't exactly a waste of money. It's actually a really fun game, and because I have been desperate for something quick to play on my Vita for a while now, it more than justified its purchase. I will say this, however. The game is not without it's flaws, especially for being a port to a handheld console.
In order to kill all the enemies, you have slash the screen with your finger, summoning your ninja to slice whatever is in the path that you designated with your digit. Unfortunately, to make your character walk or run, you have to tap on the screen where you want him to go. This control scheme worked perfect for a touchscreen device with no buttons, like an iPhone, but hey, guess what? The Vita not only has buttons, but it has joysticks too! Why not utilize that little stick on the left side to make the ninja move, and eliminate the touch-to-move control configuration? I guess that was just too obvious of an idea.
Also, holding the Vita with one hand while you slash with the other works fine in small bursts (like Uncharted), but to do is exclusively ends up hurting your hand, as I found myself switching back and forth, trying different fingers and even laying it down eventually. It's not a huge deal for me, as I can adapt just fine, but it just gets tiresome after a while, which only strengthens the argument that games like these are best played in short bursts, not long, drawn-out play sessions.
But hey, at least I didn't pay 10 times the price of it to get it on my Vita. Damn you, Birds.
I just don't get some games. For the most part, I like to think I get most games I play. But every once in a while, I get thrown a curveball that just doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.
Badland is one of those games, unfortunately.
It is an iOS game, which I downloaded on my iPad when Apple was so graciously giving away those awesome games. Again, it was another game that I went into not knowing anything about it, which always makes for a fun first experience. Sometimes the results are less than ideal, and I feel like I may have wasted my time in playing it, but other times I come across a diamond in the rough, which when discovered by surprise, is quite exciting and thrilling in all the right ways.
Immediately after starting up the game, I feel in love. The art style is one of the best and most appealing I have seen on a mobile game in a long, long time. The foreground of the game, including the character(s) you control are all silhouetted, while the background is a gloriously designed, perfectly created visual masterpiece. It looks and feels like a cross between Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet and Rayman Origins, which both happen to be a couple of my favorite artistic games over the last few years.
The game itself is simple enough, You touch the screen to move your floating little ball of fur character up, and let go to allow him to fall. You do this with precise timing in order to navigate the treacherous and dangerous (yet beautiful) landscape, all the while avoiding the impending doom that is the screen scroll. If you happen to get stuck under a tree branch or behind a wall of spikes, the scrolling screen will crush you to death. Pretty simple and straight forward, if you ask me.
There are power-ups along the way, speeding you up, shrinking you, enlarging you and even multiplying your character, all of which assist you in completing the level, as you would imagine. But here is the catch; I have no clue what is going on, why I am navigating this landscape or what exactly these power-ups even are. I don't know who I am, I don't know my purpose or my mission (other than survival) and I don't know my end game goal. I am literally just playing as I am told, like a good little sheep, not asking questions or challenging my existence in this universe.
That's a horrible feeling. Maybe I missed something? Did I accidentally skip over a cut scene or something important to a storyline that I'm still not convinced even exists?
Or do I just not get it? If that's the case, maybe ignorance is bliss.
Recently, on Twitter, I held a "contest" where I gave away a $20 Steam credit to one of my lucky followers. The only rules for the contest was to re-tweet my contest posting, but also let me know which blog posting they have liked the best in this first half of the year. Lastly, they had to leave a recommendation for a game to play, because while I should have no problem finding enough games to play for the rest of the year, I thought it would be cool to actually write about games that you, my dear readers, are interested in. I'm a man of the people.
The people's champ, if you will.
So with that, here I am, on day 195 of my blog, and I am writing about game called "Snuggle Truck." Seriously, I wish I was making this name up. But I'm not. And I played it because of suggestion from a new follower I gained in this contest giveaway, most likely because of of an awesome follower who re-tweeted what I was up to.
Anyway, when I got the recommendation from her, I promptly noted that I was nervous yet intrigued, solely based on the name of the game itself. I had never heard of the game, nor did I know anything about it, so obviously, the name "Snuggle Truck" is going to catch my eye. I mean come on, Snuggle Truck? Who wouldn't be at least interested to find out what the game was about?
I got no other information from my new yet mysterious twitter friend about the game. Was it a Steam game? A mobile game? Some odd and obscure titles on one of the consoles or handhelds that I somehow missed? I had no clue. Well, until I Googled it, that is. I saw it was available on the iOS, so of course I promptly downloaded it from the App Store, and since it was free, it made my decision even easier.
The game itself is simple. You control a truck, driving over rough terrain, trying to get to the goal as fast as possible. The only catch is that your truck bed is loaded up with cute, plushy stuffed animals that tend to go flying up and out of the truck with every bump. It's your job as driver to keep them in the truck, or catch them on their descent back to the ground. The faster you accomplish the level while packing the most cargo possible will net you better rankings, which seems to be the name of the game. Get more medals, unlock more levels.
Upon my Google search, however, I discovered a hidden secret about this game. It wasn't originally called Snuggle Truck. Before it got stuck with this cute, seemingly harmless name, it was once called "Smuggle Truck," where instead of stuffed animals, they were zoo animals, and you essentially played the role of a poacher. Apparently this too controversial for the mainstream public gaming consumer, so they had to change the name to appeal to the masses.
Which is unfortunate, if you ask me. It's a game, about driving cargo. Who really cares what the cargo is? It's sad that we as a society have stooped to this level of sensitivity.
I guess it's true what they say, though. You can't always judge a book by its cover.
It's not secret - well, it shouldn't be at least - that I'm not a huge fan of mobile games. For the most part, I don't seem to find the same type of gaming experience or enjoyment that I normally would with console or handheld gaming. The substance is lacking immersion into the game, and usually it just feels like I'm playing the mobile games just to kill time, when other forms of gaming aren't readily available.
Well, I wish I could say that playing Tiny Wings was a different experience and completely changed how I looked at mobile gaming. Unfortunately that's just not the case.
I had my iPad with me for work, for no other reason than to combat possible boredom on a slow Friday at the end of a busy work week. Thanks to the 5 year anniversary celebration of the iTunes App Store, and the free games that they gave away to thank all those loyal to the brand, I got Tiny Wings for free on the iPad. I had purchased the regular version a couple years ago when it first came out, but the iPad version (like most games) has an upgraded HD version to coincide with the big, beautiful retina display of the newest iPad. While the normal game is quite sufficient, it's always nice to take advantage of the upgraded awesomeness of HD games.
So, Tiny Wings. It's a serviceable game. It does it job as fulfilling the credentials of being a mobile game, and does it quite well. It's a one-touch game, where tapping anywhere on the screen sends your bird dive-bombing to the bumpy landscape below, in which you utilize gravity and momentum to propel yourself forward as you let go of your touch to launch your bird back in the air. Your goal is to pick up coins, gobble up speed boosts and basically get as far as you can before the sun completely sets for the day. High scores are the main reason for playing over and over again, while completing challenges throughout your play sessions adds to your success rate.
That's about it, really. It's short, quick games fueled by the drive to get higher scores and basically, just kill free time. Sure, it's a very aesthetically pleasing game, but let's not beat around the bush. It's still a mobile game, and that's all that it will ever be.
The Apple App Store is celebrating it's five year anniversary, which is crazy to think about. On one hand, it seems like only yesterday that we stepped into this new, digital age. But on the other hand, doesn't it seem like smartphones - more specifically the iPhone - has been around much, much longer than five measly years?
Anyway, in celebration of the five year anniversary, Apple selected five games to give away for free (five apps, as well), to showcase the growth of the store, as well as the variety of games that they offer, and have for years. They didn't necessarily pick out the most popular or best selling games (sorry, Angry Birds fans), but they did pull out five games that are unique, creative and superbly showcase what mobile gaming is, and can be, all about.
One of those five games is Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP. To be completely honest, I had never heard of this game before ever, so when I downloaded it (free games aren't anything to shrug at kids, especially when you're writing a blog like I am), I went in to it completely blind and unknowing as to what I was about to experience.
When I booted it up, I was prompted to pug in headphones. Right off the bat, I knew this would be more than your average game. It is an adventure game, designed in gorgeous pixel art and utilizing amazing ambient noise and a superb soundtrack. You control your adventurer pointing on the screen where you want him to walk, you double-tap to interact with objects, people or prompts, and you pinch to zoom in and out. Basically, it's your standard mobile game, designed to play without the use of buttons. For console gamers, this is hard barrier to break through, but with practice, it becomes second nature just like any other controller scheme.
The combat in the game is initiated by turning your device, bringing you into a 1-on-1 battle, where two on-screen buttons for attack and defend are used to attempt to conquer your foe. It would have been simple to just add on-screen buttons to the normal game without any flipping, but it's those kinds of small details that usually make certain mobile games stand out in the crowd of junk.
Noises - and to a lesser degree, music - play an important role to the gaming experience, especially when wearing headphones. The noise and music is ambient, subtly immersing you into the universe that you are traveling in. Without jaw-dropping graphics to rely on, the sound becomes that much more important, much like numerous successful NES games figured out back in the day. Sure, you could play this game without paying much attention to the sound, but that would be like eating gourmet cooking with a severe cold - just won't taste the same.
Unfortunately, while there are many aspects to this game I enjoy, I just don't know how much time I can consciously sink in to it. I have it downloaded to my iPad, so I assume I can get back to it while traveling or when other forms of gaming isn't readily available, but I can't justify spending my precious free time with this game, or any other mobile game, when I have other choices.
I just don't see that changing for mobile gaming for me in the near future at all. No matter how cool and awesome the game is.
Unless it's Angry Birds, of course.
Still on my sabbatical, and while today has been super busy, I did have time to do a little gaming. Mainly, to and from our fly fishing excursion early this morning, which was an hour each way. In the car. there was nothing else to do other than make brief small talk with our fishing guide and play games on my phone, since there is hardly any cell service ANYWHERE in this area, I'm beginning to realize.
So, because I didn't bring my Vita or my 3DS with me (because I didn't want to be that guy on a fishing trip), I decided to play a game on my phone. And now, I'm writing about it. I played 10,000,000, otherwise known as Ten Million.
This game has been recommended to me a few different times, especially when it was pointed out how much I play Candy Crush Saga despite the fact I utterly despise the game and all that it stands for. Because of that, I gave the game a chance, despite it being a couple of dollars. It's still a match-three type of game, but it has an interesting twist on it that makes it an RPG/Action/Adventure style of game while keeping the match-three core mechanics. The game actually makes you think and plan your moves and come up with some sort of game plan.
In comparison, this game is chess, and crappy games like Candy Crush Saga are checkers. In checkers, you don't have to think too much at all, just make the appropriate moves to eventually, hopefully win. But in chess, you can't just worry about the moves you're making at the time, but you have to think 2-3 moves ahead of your opponent, planning it out as far as you can..
So that's 10,000,000. Sorry, I wish I could write more about it, but I don't know if I can conjure up more if I tried, thanks to this amazing day and even better night. It's a fun game, it's a challenging game, and it's something to keep you interested on a completely different level than Candy Crush Saga does.
But as long as there are unbeaten levels in my game of Candy Crush, there will always be reason to play it...
XBLA = The Noyse
PSN = the_noyse
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Games played for project : 365