Mobile Monday – Snowboard Hero, Year Walk, Mahjong Artefacts, Sonic Dash

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 Snowboard Hero from Fish Labs, Year Walk from Simogo, Mahjong Artifacts from G5 Entertainment and Sonic Dash from SEGA.

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!

SNOWBOARD HERO by Martin Baker:

When I was growing up, with my trusty PlayStation controller in my hand, there were only two games that people could consider “sports games” that I’d spend any time playing. One of those was the original Tony Hawks Pro Skateboarder, and the other was Coolboarders 2. There’s nothing I can really do to recapture that love for the original Tony Hawks game (don’t even mention the HD “demake”) but when it comes to recapturing that love of simplistic snowboarding action, Snowboard Hero, developed by Fish Labs, don’t seem to be too far off of the mark. But does it recapture all of those feelings or is it lacking in some areas?

The gameplay is pretty similar to the main mode in Coolboarders 2, in that you’ll be asked to get from the top of a slope to the bottom while trying to attain as many points as you possibly can. Gaining points can be as simple as passing through the slalom points – something which can be rather difficult in its own right – or, if you’re feeling a little bit more adventurous, you can perform a variety of tricks and stunts while you’re flying through the air, which is where you’ll find yourself quite regularly. You’ll have to be careful not to do too many tricks though, as not managing to land properly will see all of those lovely points you’ve accumulated quickly draining away as fast as you earned them.

There are plenty of ways to accumulate points as you’re hurtling down the slope, but the most impressive – and the one you’re going to use most often – are the various tricks. A quick flick on either side of the iOS device’s screen will perform tricks using the left or right hand, while other actions will perform spins and flips (amongst other things). Chaining these moves together will also ensure a high score when you cross the finish line too. The most difficult of all the tricks, in my opinion at least, are the grinds. Jumping onto the pipe in the first place can be difficult but keeping your balance by instantly straightening your device (because you had it tilted to steer) is difficult to do at speed.

The controls in Snowboard Hero are nice and intuitive too, something which could easily have been overlooked during development. The left and right movement of the character is controlled through the tilting of the iOS device, with all of the tricks and stunts performed via various methods of swiping the touch screen, either up, down, left or right. It does all take some getting used to, especially when you’re attempting to perform all these actions at speed, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be racking up the high scores with the pros.

If you were a fan of Coolboarders back in the day, then you’ll probably find Snowboard Hero a decent enough game, as most of the gameplay elements are identical. That being said, even people who have never played the game before would probably get a kick out of speeding down a slope while performing tricks and racking up points. Snowboard Hero isn’t the most impressive game on the iOS App Store but it tries hard to be what it is – a fun way to spend a few minutes – and, in that, it succeeds valiantly. Snowboard Hero - FISHLABS

YEAR WALK by Colm Ahern:

Bleak, dark and depressing are all apt words when describing the harrowing tale of Year Walk, based on Swedish folklore, wherein men would embark on journeys through wooded areas at the stroke of midnight in order to see an apparition of their future. To go into any more detail would ruin an expertly crafted story that will leave players haunted for days afterward.

Via a series of directional swipes, players amble around the eerie forest, seeing through the eyes of the Year Walker and solving a series of puzzles along the way. Like a finely designed maze, there is the option to go left and right, or forwards and backwards (at points) in order to go deeper in to the unknown. From the same team that brought you Bumpy Road and Beat Sneak Bandit, Year Walk’s a big change of pace for Simogo. Effectively a horror game, a true testament to Year Walk is the fact that some of the most unsettling moments are not in the jump-scares the game presents you, but in the anticipation created using glorious art and sound design.

From the sound of the player walking through the snow, to the beautifully creepy soundtrack, Simogo’s latest effort has the ability to suck the player into this world and lap up anything that’s presented to them, mainly because of what they’re hearing. The game doesn’t really encourage you to experience Year Walk with headphones, but you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t pop on some cans while playing.

With no hud, no screen prompts and no tutorial to speak of, Year Walk certainly throws players in at the deep end. Developer Simogo asks the person holding the iOS device to almost forget how they would traditionally approach puzzle games and think outside the box. Year Walk is one of those special iOS games that doesn’t allow itself to be limited because of the platform that it’s on. This game will make you feel utterly useless, right up until you crack the conundrum in front of you, simply because of clever game design and masterfully-made puzzles. The only caveat is that the cryptic nature of these puzzles can, at a few rare points, get a little infuriating. It doesn’t happen too often, but there are one or two instances where Simogo have probably taken the difficulty a bit too far.

However, in saying that, Year Walk has the ability to trump most games you’ve played on Apple devices. For all of the putrid applications available for iPhone and iPad, there are a lot of gems out there and Year Walk’s innovation means it sits near the top. This isn’t just one of the best handheld games of this year, this is, quite frankly, one of the best games of this year full-stop. Year Walk - Simogo

MAHJONG ARTEFACTS by Martin Baker:

Mahjong is one of those games that’s  been around almost as long as written history, and in that time it’s barely changed. It’s still a game that tasks the player with matching sets of tiles together in order to remove all of them from the board and it’s still a game that players can sit back with, relax, and not worry about any additional gameplay mechanics or anything else. Shape Games, the developers of Mahjong Artefacts  have taken the age-old gameplay of Mahjong and added a story to it, a reason to play, but have they messed around with the formula too much? Does the addition of a story element take too much away from the relaxing nature of Mahjong?

The gameplay is much like a typical Mahjong game: you’re given a board with a selection of tiles the you have to match together in order to win the stage. You do have to be careful about which order you match them in however, as matching them in the wrong order could leave you without any moves to make – but that’s not really a problem with this updated version of Mahjong, as a quick tap of the ‘Shuffle’ button will usually see you right. There are also special powers hidden within some of the tiles, and certain tiles can be matched with more than just their identical twin. It’s these small changes to the basic formula that add something new to the game while keeping the base mechanics exactly the same. As the changes are minor and don’t effect the actual gameplay too much, you never really feel like things have been changed, only added.

The story element also adds a nice touch to the overall aesthetic of the game. You play as an adventurer looking for ancient artefacts to add to his collection and, in order to attain these artefacts  he needs to beat various people at their favourite game; Mahjong. Beating them will get their artefact off of them and the player moves on to the next encounter. The story is a nice touch that didn’t really need to be added as the game is fun enough as it is, but its addition shows that the developers actually take a small amount of pride in their work.

The controls of Mahjong Artefacts are easy enough to get to grips with; just tap the two tiles that you want to remove and, providing it’s a valid move, they will be removed from play with a swanky little animation. Those that have never played Mahjong before won’t be phased either, as each time you tap on a tile, if there are any tiles it can be matched with, they will light up and let the player know. Pretty nifty.

Mahjong Artefacts takes the tried and tested formula of classic Mahjong and adds new features to it, such as power-ups and a story, that keep the millennia-old game feeling fresh and exciting. If you enjoy curling up and relaxing while playing Mahjong, then you may want to skip this game in favour of something with more traditional gameplay mechanics; however, if you want something interesting, new, but still good old Mahjong, then you should definitely add Mahjong Artefacts to your download queue. Mahjong Artifacts - G5 Entertainment

SONIC DASH by Colm Ahern:

For every fantastic, original idea on the mobile platform, there are hundreds of examples that ape that particular idea for all its worth. The endless runner is just one example. Whilst Temple Run is definitely not the originator of the 3D runner, it was one of those iOS titles that broke the mould and infiltrated the psyche of the casual.

Sonic Dash is Sega’s attempt to capitalise on the format with their ever present mascot and, even though it’s not essentially a bad game, the constant push to get the user to purchase in-game currency is, quite frankly, revolting. The ever-present gold rings and red rings are said currency, with red rings being far more important and far less frequent.

Sure, the things the game wants you to buy can be earned through extensive play, but Sonic Dash practically takes the player’s wallet out of their back pocket and thieves a 20 for one of its ring bundles . At every Game Over screen, it’s a bombardment of enticing microtransactions that enforce the pay-to-win ethos. Also, this is not a free-to-play game, making it all the more disgusting.

It’s sad really, simply because there are a few things that Sonic Dash has going for it such as how stunning it looks on a retina display and how the sound captures that child-like glee we’ve all had playing numerous Sonic games in our youth. The controls are ok and quite responsive at times, but in the long run, the game is unfairly punishing. Enemies tend to be placed just after obstacles you’ve hopped over, so there isn’t ample time to perform lightning quick jump-slide-jump sequences and insta-death with collisions is aggravating.

Sonic The Hedgehog was bestowed the nickname “The Blue Blur” because he is the Usain Bolt of video game characters, making him an ideal fit for Sega’s interpretation of this ever-growing genre. However, the decent game inside Sonic Dash is shackled by intrusive in-app purchase notifications and infuriatingly cheap deaths. The Hedgehog’s return prominence is delayed once again. Sonic Dash - SEGA


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