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 Dark Arcana: The Carnival from Artifex Mundi, Castlevania from Konami, Monster Truck Destruction from Odd Games and Nightsky from Nicklas Nygren.
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!
DARK ARCANA: THE CARNIVAL by Martin Baker:
It’s another week here at Mobile Monday and that must mean that it’s time to take a look at yet another adventure game from the guys over at G5 Games. This time we’re taking a look at Dark Arcana: The Carnival, developed by Artifex Mundi, which follows the disappearance of a young girl’s mother in a strange and spooky carnival. All of the typical G5 adventure game tropes are present, but with some little extras thrown in here and there. Can you get to the end and discover the secret to the disappearance? It’s going to take everything you’ve got.
From the moment the game starts, it’s obvious that something is not quite right with the titular carnival; the people that are running it are strange, the doors leading to the different areas are creepy, and yet the small girl and her mother are content to walk through without care. Not something you’d find me doing. It’s not long before the story starts and you, as an investigator, are sent into the carnival to find out what happened. Talking to the carnival’s manager is your first port of call, but he’s not making it easy, running off and locking doors behind him, so you’re going to have to play some puzzles in order to unlock the doors and get to him. Just as with any typical adventure game, this is what you’re going to spend your time doing in Dark Arcana: The Carnival: moving forward until you can’t move any more, solving a puzzle to get to the next screen, then rinsing and repeating.
With a G5 adventure game, we’re used to seeing the type of puzzles where you’re given a scene and told to find items on the list. While this is part of Dark Arcana: The Carnival, it’s not the main puzzle element, which is a welcome change as that type of puzzle is arguably becoming a little stale. A lot of the puzzles will be more reminiscent of traditional adventure puzzles, looking for a specific “key” to open a specific “lock” in order to progress. One puzzle, at the start of the game, has the player matching items to their unique circus performer, and this is one of the best puzzles in a G5 game to date, entertaining, slightly challenging and rewarding. Just what the doctor ordered.
The controls in Dark Arcana: The Carnival are simple, only requiring the player to tap the screen to select the different object in the scene. However, there’s a problem that arises if the player is using a smaller iOS device such as an iPod Touch or an iPhone in that the objects can be tiny and difficult to press. This isn’t the first time that a G5 game has had this problem, and it probably won’t be the last, but it’s something to be aware of if accurately tapping the touch screen has proven to be challenging for you in the past; unless that adds to the appeal of a puzzle game. The story and control scheme lend themselves well to a game that can be played by people of all ages, there’s no need to be an avid gamer when it comes to Dark Arcana: The Carnival, just enjoy it.
Though the game feels at home on any iOS device, it’s just a little bit harder to play, and screams out to be played on the bigger screen of an iMac or a MacBook. The puzzles are appealing, well created and well executed, the animations are fluid and well done and the story isn’t bad either. Dark Arcana: The Carnival is certainly one of the best G5 adventure games to date.
CASTLEVANIA by Lee Garbutt:
If you are eagerly awaiting both Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, and its portable sibling Mirror of Fate, the latest Virtual Console title to hit the Nintendo 3DS could well be of great interest.
What we have here is the game that started it all, and if you’re willing to put up with mid-80’s game design and cumbersome mechanics, the original Castlevania is still a very enjoyable platformer. As the boringly named vampire hunter Simon Belmont, you arrive at Castlevania to rid the world of Dracula. Wielding the classic Vampire Killer whip, and a host of collectable items such as Holy Water, knives and axes, you traverse a series of linear levels, battling classic horror beasties on your way to defeat the dreaded Nosferatu.
Being an early NES title, Castlevania is hard as bloody nails. Simon slowly walks around like an arthritic pensioner, while the jumping mechanics can and will be the death of you. If you feel the need to jump, you better damn well be sure you’re committed to that decision, because you can’t change directions while in the air. It’s all too easy to be hit by a stray flying enemy mid-jump, watching helplessly as your brown-hued warrior falls to his death. You will learn to hate bats and flying Medusa heads.
So it’s a relic of old-fashioned game design, one of regular frustration and unfair death. But this 27-year old game is still an enjoyable one; the music still sounds great and the graphics are surprisingly detailed for the time period. As mentioned before, the game is frustrating but it does have infinite continues. Combine that with the 3DS Virtual Console’s Restore Point feature, and some of the bite is taken away from the difficulty.
If your experience with the Castlevania series began with the post-Symphony of The Night titles, leading up to Lords of Shadow, then this Virtual Console title is a great reminder of why the series is so well regarded. A classic action-platformer that holds up incredibly well, nearly three decades after its release.
MONSTER TRUCK DESTRUCTION by Martin Baker:
Quite a few things get me excited when it comes to mobile games, but nothing has gotten me as excited in recent months as the chance to play a game centred around Monster Trucks. I remember a time, waaaay back, when I’d watch the mighty behemoths with my Dad on a Sunday morning. The likes of Bigfoot and Gravedigger used to astound me then and their appeal isn’t lost on me even now. Monster Truck Destruction, a game developed by Odd Games, is something that feels like it has me as its target audience – but is it any good?
Throughout your championship you’ll be playing through two main game modes. Drag is a game mode which tasks the player with driving around a predetermined course with the goal being to beat the other monster truck across the finish line. Do this enough times and you’ll move through the mini-tournament and become the winner, advancing yourself in the major championship. The other mode, Freestyle, is what I grew up watching, monster trucks doing anything that looks cool. Smashing through objects, making seemingly impossible jumps and more. The aim of Freestyle is to rack up as many points by performing stunts as you can – but you have to be careful: being forced to reset will lose you all those precious points. Getting the most points in Freestyle mode is what you’re looking for, and doing so will advance you through the game’s main championship mode.
You also get to play these game modes whenever you want through the title’s ‘Single Event’ mode, which allows you to practice your craft in order to get the better scores where it really matters – in championship mode. As you’re building up your wins, attaining more money, you’ll also be able to upgrade your monster truck however you see fit, something that you’re going to want to do in order to make it in the big leagues. It’s all your standard stuff though – upgrade the exhaust, upgrade the engine, etc, – so you’re not going to feel overwhelmed by the options on offer.
The controls are where Monster Truck Destruction starts to feel a bit flimsy but, in fairness, the developers did try to make it as user friendly as possible by adding multiple control schemes but, at the end of the day, they’re still on-screen touch controls and they’re always going to feel a bit off, especially when you’re playing a game where the slightest accidental movement could mean the difference between top and bottom place. There have been worse uses of on-screen controls, and Monster Truck Destruction does its best will the tools it’s been provided with, just don’t expect it to be some kind if control scheme epiphany.
Monster Truck Madness is a solid game if you’re already a fan of the massive machines, but it’s not going to convert anybody who’s on the fence about it all. The repetitive gameplay and loose controls are balanced by good looking visuals and interesting social integration but there’s no denying that this is one for the fans, and the fans alone.
NIGHTSKY by Jonny Lewis:
Physics games are everywhere these days. A quick Google search and you’ll find websites stuffed full of the things – roll this ball to X location, stack this many boxes without making a mess, throw this feathery vertebrate at that green vertebrate. They all sound simple, and they are, so why are there so many of them knocking about? Maybe we just like throwing things around? NightSky, from developer Nicalis, is a physics game with a twist. The twist? Wonderful presentation. Is it still fun? Absolutely.
The story behind NightSky tells of a young man who has a particularly lucid repetitive dream about a spinning ball after stumbling upon a glowing sea shell on the beach one day. You control the ball in the young man’s dreams, rolling it around atmospheric environments in an effort to get it to the finish. NightSky is pitched by the developers as a “beautiful, non-violent game”, so the challenge arises in the form of obstacles in your path that hinder your progress.
NightSky is great to play as a relaxing experience, as it never really becomes challenging enough to annoy or frustrate, which is to the game’s benefit as you’ll struggle to put it down, easing your way through stage after to stage will probably see you complete the games nine different worlds in just a handful of play sessions. You control the ball with the analogue stick, with two commands assigned to the Y and B face buttons. The commands change from level to level with turbo, brake and gravity shift amongst the commands on offer. Some levels see you catch a ride on or in vehicles, while some are turned into a platform version of pinball.
Rolling your little ball around the silhouetted environments is an enjoyable experience, with the game’s striking visual style being the thing that probably sticks longest in the memory. Your glowing ball moves across 2D black backgrounds set against an array of spectacular vistas, sky scenes and sunsets. The game’s visual flare is something to be commended. As a game, NightSky is fun; it offers little in the way of challenge but, while it lasts, you’ll enjoy every minute of it.