It’s that time of the week again, time to go through four more games and decide which ones we should spend our week playing and what we really shouldn’t be. First of all we’ve got Super Crossfire HD, a gorgeous looking space shooter which is very reminiscent of those games that we all – well, most of us – played during our younger years. Secondly there’s Neon Mania, a game that asks the player to simply trace shapes on the screen. That probably shouldn’t be addictive but just wait until you’ve had a go. Sand Slides comes next, a physics based game with some interesting mechanics and lastly, a movie tie-in game, Real Steel. Read the reviews, see what you think and download some games to entertain yourself through the week.
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!
SUPER CROSSFIRE HD:
Those of us of a certain age probably grew up loving games such as Space Invaders. The images that were being displayed to us were, on their own, enough to burn the memory of those experiences into our brain making some of those pixelated nuisances some of the most iconic enemies in gaming history. Over the years there have been many games that seemed to emulate that feeling that Space Invaders gave us, that feeling of impending disaster, the slow descent into doom, the urgency of the situation. Super Crossfire HD does all that; and a whole lot more.
As you would expect from a game that so clearly bases its gameplay mechanics from Space Invaders, the object of the game is to shoot the enemies out of the sky. Clear the immediate vicinity of enemies and you’ll move onto the next stage where you’ll do it all over again. Despite playing the same essential game mechanic over and over again it never really gets boring. Each stage usually has something that the player has to overcome, a new enemy, a new formation, etc. This gives each level a slightly new feel each time and keeps the game interesting, as well as the player on their toes.
The main difference in the gameplay from something akin to Space Invaders and Super Crossfire HD is the ability to move your ship, through the enemies, to the other side of the screen. This mechanic is used mainly for two reasons. Players will often use this side switching mechanic in order to pick up power-ups which, contrary to the normal rules of this type of game, can’t be shot in order to attain them, the player must fly through them using the side switching mechanic. The second reason players will use this mechanic is for tactical reasons, drawing an enemies fire to the bottom area of the screen, switching sides and then obliterating them from behind. This may sound like it makes the game too easy but some of the enemies get wise to your tactics quite quickly and will require a lot of switching and shooting at a very fast pace in order to overcome them.
Super Crossfire HD is a visually stunning game and uses faux old school graphics to great effect, making you feel like you could be playing a game that was made in the 80’s but with enough flair to remind you that you’re clearly not. The controls can take a little bit of getting used to as players are required to use a left/right slider to move their vessel and a swipe of the screen to switch sides. In tight circumstances this can get a little confusing and difficult; and tight circumstances occur quite often.
If you’re looking for a relatively hardcore shooter for iOS, something that you can waste away a few hours on, then look no further than Super Crossfire HD the visuals alone will make sure that you keep coming back time and time again, add the addictive gameplay on top of that and you’re left with a game that you’ll have a hard time putting down, nevermind staying away from. Super Crossfire HD tries to emulate the feeling that games such as Space Invaders gave us all those years ago, and it does a damn fine job of it too.
A lot of games on the iOS App Store require some degree of thought to be applied to them in order to enjoy them. Games such as Angry Birds need the player to work out the trajectory of each bird, not mentioning what each bird can do as its special attack. Whale Trail (reviewed last week) requires that the player keeps the whale in the air at all times. Which itself requires constant input. Neon Mania doesn’t require any of that, all you’re tasked with doing is tracing around the lines, that you’re already given, as fast and as accurately as you possibly can. No real thought processes involved, no real skill (except basic hand/eye co-ordination) and yet there’s still something so addictive and charming about it.
The gameplay in Neon Mania, as I mentioned before, involves tracing around lines that you’re given. Basically, as the name would suggest, you’re creating neon signs and the lines that you’re tracing around are the guidelines for that particular piece. There’s something strangely satisfying and deeply calming about creating amazing looking pieces of neon artwork, depicting various subjects, using only that trusty pointing finger on the end of your arm. There are lots of possible designs to choose from that will both keep you playing the game, and keep you entertained for months. That’s if you don’t keep going back to them over and over again; which is entirely possible.
The controls are about as easy as you would expect to get from a game such as this. Simply pick one of the stars the signify the start of a line and drag it, as precisely as possible, to the other end of the line. Do this for all of the lines in a challenge and you’ll move on to the next one; it couldn’t get any easy unless you were able to control it with the power of thought alone. The visuals are also quite visually pleasing with the neon glow of each of the puzzles, once they’re completed, being rather soothing. They’re not the most radical, or hardware intensive visuals available on the App Store but they’re not trying to be either and what you do get are quite stunning.
At the end of the day all you really need to hear from me is whether or not you should download Neon Mania; you should. Nothing in the game is particularly challenging, and you probably won’t, at first, understand why you’re playing it so much but the colours, the gameplay and the sheer amount of levels available will keep you coming back a lot longer than you’d probably care to admit; even to yourself.
Sand Slides is a physics puzzle game from the collective minds at Logik State, it relies on the player’s ability to judge where grains of sand are going to fall based on their current trajectory, their momentum and a few other factors that would feel right at home in a physics textbook. The main objective is to get as many grains of coloured sand into their containers by intelligently placing slopes and buckets using your finger on the iDevice’s screen. Is this small amount of gameplay enough to keep people’s interests up for the long term? What is there to do once you’ve mastered the basic physics of the game? Is there any reason to play if you’re not a physics student?
As I mentioned before, the main gameplay element of Sand Slides revolves around attempting to get different coloured sand into their respective containers. The more green sand you get into the green container, the more points you’ll get. Any grains of sand that fall into the other colours of containers won’t lose points though, they’ll just not get any at all. In order to get the grains of sand into the correct container the player must draw objects onto the screen that help the grains of sand along their way. These helpful objects could take the form of simple slopes, making their way gently down the slopes, buckets to hold the sand until you figure out what to do with it, or any number of things that your mind could possibly create in an attempt to help you.
The biggest downside with Sand Slides is that once you’ve managed to work out exactly what needs to be done in order to fill up the buckets in the most efficient manner possible, there’s nothing much else to keep you entertained. Sure, watching sand fall into buckets is fun as first, purely because of the physics involved, but when that wears off there’s not much underneath to keep people playing for longer than half an hour. There’s nothing at all for the long term player.
Having been developed by an extremely small development team the graphics of Sand Slides leave a lot to be desired. It reminds me of my programming days, where people would go on and on about “developer art”, assets that would be in the game purely to make sure that they could be loaded and work in the way they’re supposed to. That’s what Sand Slides looks and feels like, as if someone filled it up with developer art and then forgot to replace it when the time came to release the game. To that end everything functions as you would expect it to, just don’t expect it to win any video game beauty prizes.
The controls are very simple to learn, once you know what the game is expecting of you. All the player needs to do is draw on the screen where they want to make a line appear, the sand that’s dropped will then interact with this line and perform the appropriate action; whether that’s sliding down it or if you’ve created a bucket, getting caught in it. The only other thing the player has to remember is that they can double tap a line in order to remove it again. Simple stuff really.
All in all Sand Slides is a game with a good concept and the execution is sound too, but it just doesn’t have enough legs to keep people interested for extended periods of time. It’s still very much worth a play, especially considering the tiny size of the development team that managed to pull it off, but don’t be expecting the next AAA iOS gaming beast.
It used to be a trend that whenever we got a blockbuster movie hitting our local big screens that we’d get a console game to accompany it. The idea being that we would walk out of the cinema and feel the urge to continue within that world so much that we would instantly go out and buy the game. Those games tend not to be anything spectacular, even if the film itself is. The new science fiction/boxing film is no different and while it doesn’t have a major console retail release (it is available as a downloadable title) it has what not many other movie tie-in games have had, at least not up to now, a movie tie-in iPad game. Is it the better marketing strategy though? Is it even any good?
As you would expect from a game that ties in with a “boxing” movie (and I use that term very loosely), the gameplay revolves around kicking the living oil(?!?) out of your opponent. The first person to run out of health is the loser and the first person to win two rounds is the winner. In that sense it’s your typical fighting game. There are a few different game modes to choose from, which gives Real Steel a little more longevity than it would usually have. There’s the standard tournament mode, where you fight your way through the ranks until you’re the best around (and nothing’s ever gonna keep you down) and then there’s the sparring mode, a mode where you choose your fighter, choose your opponent and just fight. No ladders to climb, no tournament to win, just metal on metal fisticuffs.
While the gameplay itself is enjoyable the whole game is let down by the fact that it’s plagued by random crashes. Out of every 10 times I tried to load a sparring match it would crash at least 8 times. This is annoying in most games but when all you want to do is have a quick 5 minute spar with another metal monstrosity it’s downright intolerable.
The controls are also quite difficult to use. Due to the nature of the game, players will have no choice but to use the on screen buttons in order to navigate your character as well as attacking and blocking. This system of control has always been notoriously bad but in Real Steel it feels worse than ever. A lot of the time the controls will feel unresponsive, you’ll press on the left “button” and if it recognises the touch at all, your character will move so sluggishly that it’s almost impossible to move fast enough to dodge an incoming enemy attack. This more than anything else, will frustrate most players.
On a plus note however, the visuals in Real Steel are quite pleasing. The characters from the film are modelled well and the animations themselves look good too. That being said, what would have been quite an enjoyable game with good visuals and a potentially impressive amount of gameplay is severely let down by poor controls and a terrible tendency to crash more often than it loads. Perhaps there will be a patch in the future that fixes at least the crashes but until that time I would tell everybody to avoid Real Steel like the plague. Who wants to pay for a game that they have to roll a d20 to figure out if it’s going to even load or not anyway? We’re not living in the Spectrum ZX era anymore!