You know what day it is? It’s Monday again and that can mean only one thing here at GodisaGeek: It’s time for another edition of Mobile Monday, the article where we take a look at four mobile games and let you know if they’re worth your time and money.
This week we’re taking a look at Tokyo Crash Mobs from Mitchell Corporation, Shards of Time from Candygrill, Pixel People from LambdaMu Games and Crimson Shroud from Level-5.
Read on to find the full reviews of each game, but don’t forget to come back next week for more Mobile Monday reviews. While you’re here, if you have played any of the games listed, or even just want to come back once you’ve had a go to let us know how you got on, we’d love to hear from you in the comment box at the bottom of the page.
Titles are available on iPhone and iPad unless specifically stated otherwise. If you like what you read, click the small black “App Store” button to load iTunes up and purchase the title!
TOKYO CRASH MOBS by Sean Smith:
Chances are, thanks to the overwhelming popularity of PopCap’s casual downloadable gaming onslaught, that most gamers will have heard of or indeed played Zuma – their polished colour-match puzzler. It is less likely that the average man in the street would be aware of Mitchell Corporation; however, it was these Japanese arcade game specialists who created Puzz Loop – the game that Zuma is so clearly (ahem) inspired by. They also created Pang, which was ace – but that isn’t important right now.
The Puzz Loop formula has been trotted out and done to death much in the same way as Puzzle Bobble and its umpteen clones. It is fair to say however that it has never been done quite like Tokyo Crash Mobs – a wildly offbeat new take on the classic formula which has been engineered by Mitchell themselves for the 3DS.
At its core, Crash Mobs is classic Puzz Loop mechanics all the way – a long trail of coloured objects spiral around the screen toward a goal, with the aim to throw other coloured objects at the loop with your stylus in order to eliminate groups of three or more, hopefully racking up some combos along the way. The difference here is that instead of marbles or tiles, the objects in question are people wearing brightly-coloured clothing, and you eliminate said bods out of the looping chain by flinging other people towards them. But these are no ordinary people – they are, as the game keeps reminding you, “scenesters” – annoying, hipster types whose looping, queueing formations around the 3DS screen it is your job to destroy, making you a stylus-wielding arbiter of queue-jumping justice.
This odd premise is brought to life with some knowingly dodgy lo-fi digitised sprites, straight out of a Williams/Midway arcade game circa the early Nineties, and an oddball plotline which makes use of some of the most ridiculous live action, almost golden-era FMV-style cutscenes you will ever witness. The queue-hating protagonists of the game are a girly duo comprising the hip, bar and restaurant-loving Japanese lass Grace, and the clearly mental Savannah representing a bizarro, skewed take on us Western folk.
Time-honoured Puzz Looping is mixed up with some fun bonus stages starring ninjas (are there any other kind?) as well as some bonkers obstacles and game-changers in the main game itself – like balls of wool that cause the drone-like scenesters to get tangled up, or the sudden appearance of a goddamn flying saucer from outer space. It is completely insane from start to finish, and while some of the controls can be a fiddly and you often lose part of your “loop” from your vision thanks to the confines of the screen, this is as fun a version of the format as I have ever played, and is a must for lovers of Japan-o-centric crazy times. DELUSION NOW!
SHARDS OF TIME by Martin Baker:
G5 Games seem to have cornered the market when it comes to adventure games on iOS devices. All of them work in a similar way, where the player is expected to search for clues in the environment based on a list of items that they’re supposed to find in a particular room. This latest game, Shards of time from Candygrill, is another adventure game in exactly that vein. What sets these adventure games apart, usually, is the fact that their story keeps players inside the game world, not letting them put the game down in fears of missing out on story. Does Shards of Time instill that same sense of great storytelling?
The game plays out like a typical G5 adventure: the player is placed in a room and given a list of items that they need to find. These items are dotted around the room, sometimes in obvious places and other times in places that you wouldn’t think to look. The player is unable to move forward with the story until they’ve found every single item on the list but, in case players get stuck, there’s a hint button in the bottom-right hand corner to help reveal those more difficult objects, allowing you to move forward.
Sometimes you won’t be given a list of objects to find, just a single object and told to find a certain number of them. These can often be more fun than the typical list of items because the item’s definition can be a little ambiguous. For example, the player, at the start of the game, is asked to find cacti but all of the cacti in the scene aren’t plants, some of them are on signs and other places. This means that the player has to think a little bit harder than they usually would.
The story in Shards of Time is where the game is let down the most, as well as the frankly terrible voice acting. This isn’t nearly on par with some of the other G5 adventure games such as the Epic Adventures series and doesn’t give the player a need to pick it back up again once they’ve put it down, unless they really love the puzzles. The story isn’t a draw in the slightest.
As we’ve come to expect from these iOS adventure games, the controls are hugely simplistic, only requiring the player to tap the screen to select an item that they may have found. The hit box for some items seems to be a little bit small for most fingers but there’s the ability to zoom in on a scene and this usually fixes any tapping inaccuracies.
All in all, Shards of Time is an average adventure game at best. The reason people play this genre, for the most part, is for the story and this title simply doesn’t have a good one. The puzzles are exactly the same as you’d find in other games of this ilk so with that being a case of “played one, played them all”, the story really needs to be the draw and that purely isn’t the case.
PIXEL PEOPLE by Martin Baker:
Pixel art is something that always seems to be enjoying to look at. It’s video game related in the sense that most of us grew up looking at it, and it’s artistic because each piece of pixel art might mean something different to each person; they might even see something different. So when Pixel People, developed by LambdaMu Games, landed in my Mobile Monday inbox, I instantly knew I had to take a look. A management sim-style game presented in a pixel art aesthetic? Yes please! However, does the addition of a visually-pleasing art style make a game good, or does Pixel People have what it takes to do that regardless of the visual choice? That’s what we’re here to find out.
The gameplay in Pixel People, at its core, is all about creating a full city of the 150 possible clones. You start your game with just a few clones but by combining the different job title together through splicing, you will be able to create a brand new clone with a brand new job. For example, a Detective and a Scientist combine together to make a Forensic Scientist. There are 150 of these possible combinations in the game at the moment and it will take a great deal of time – and money if you choose to use Utopium, the game’s in-game currency – if you intend to find every single one of them.
Sometimes, creating a new job title through splicing will create a new building for you to place – those new recruits have got to work somewhere – and it’s your job to find a place for these building in your sprawling metropolis. Running out of room? No problem! You can expand your borders any time, but it’ll cost you, and in order to get more money you need more clones, who will need more buildings and houses, which will need more space, which needs more money, etc etc. You can see where the cyclical nature of the game comes in, which will ensure that people keep coming back for more, time and time again.
The controls in Pixel People are something that most players will have to get used to. It’s not that they’re difficult, far from it – you’re only touching the screen – but some of the items are so small that even the slimmest of fingers may have trouble tapping on the correct building from time to time. It doesn’t take away from the enjoyment too much however, and you’ll soon learn where the best place to tap is, but even when playing on the iPad – the game supports iCloud saving so swapping from device to device isn’t a problem – you may find yourself tapping on the totally wrong place. Even more so because you can’t play the game in landscape mode, even on the iPad, which feels somewhat strange.
If you’re a fan of time-management sims and a fan of pixel art, then Pixel People is absolutely the game that you’ve been waiting for. It is bright, colourful, engaging and addictive. People will have a huge amount of fun finding all the potential splicing combinations, finding places for them to live and upgrading their exciting new city. I even found myself checking the progress first thing in the morning, even before my emails!
CRIMSON SHROUD by Martin Baker:
I don’t think I’ve seen many games on any of the mobile/handheld formats that task the player with regularly throwing dice as if they’re playing a classic game of Dungeons & Dragons, but if any console could do it it’d be the 3DS. The device’s touch screen is perfect for the tactile feedback of actually throwing dice, and the power of the 3DS means that we can get some decent quality, and decent length, games out of it too. Enter Crimson Shroud, essentially a JRPG but with heavy leanings towards a tabletop gaming style. The game is developed by Level-5, a developer that’s quickly gaining a name for itself in the JRPG market, but does this digitally downloadable title hold up to the rest of their catalogue?
Crimson Shroud takes a little bit of getting used to at first. It’s not immediately obvious that what you’re playing is an interactive tabletop game so the fact that the characters in the cutscenes literally don’t move is a little strange and difficult to get used to. All of the action takes place in still shots of the character models with text overlaid on the screen, as if you were really playing around with miniatures and having a dungeonmaster shouting the story at you. At certain points in the narrative you’ll be able to make decisions – such as one near the start of the game which asks you to either dodge or parry an incoming arrow – and it’s then your job to roll the dice to see if that move is successful or not. Roll below the required number and you’re taking an arrow to the chest.
The main crux of the gameplay comes with the encounters. These are the turn-based battles that we’re so used to when it comes to this genre of RPG. The turn-based action plays out exactly as you’d expect it would with the player taking turns to do damage to the enemy until one of you – hopefully your opponent – is defeated. You can do damage through the use of attacks, magic or skills, and efficient use of all three of these – which can also be modified by dice throws if you have any in your inventory – is the key to success. Once the battle is over you’ll be given a certain number of barter points based on how well you performed in battle. These barter points are used to collect the items that the enemies drop once they’re defeated, but you can only pick up as many as you have barter points for, so be careful. The different ways that the game plays out, as well as the long sections when you’re doing nothing except advancing the text, takes a lot to get used to but once you’re settled with it, it’s rather rewarding.
For the most part, the only button you’ll be using is the ‘A’ button. This is the button you’ll use to progress the text as well as selecting enemies you want to attack. The other buttons are used, such as ‘X’ to open the menu, D-Pad to move around the map and select enemies, etc, but for the most part, the ‘A’ button is your truest ally. Rolling the dice is quite fun when you get to do it too, giving you the option to either use the stylus on the touch screen or the circle pad. There’s nothing that can match the uncertainty of rolling a dice when playing an RPG of any sort and Crimson Shroud nails it.
Crimson Shroud is a difficult game to get into but once you do, you’ll be hooked. The art style leaves a lot to be desired, as does the story, but the gameplay more than makes up for those downfalls, making Crimson Shroud something that you have to at least try if you’re a 3DS owner and a fan of JRPGs. Random number generators are all well and good when you’re trying to hide the base level mechanics of a good RPG, but there’s nothing quite like grabbing those d20s, crossing your fingers, praying to the gods, and hoping for a good outcome. Crimson Shroud allows players to relive those D&D playing days, albeit in a strange new world.