Mobile Monday – Monkey Slam, Epic Adventures: La Jangada, Kirby’s Star Stacker, Don’t Feed the Trolls
You know what day it is? It’s Monday again and that can mean only one thing here at GodisaGeek.com: 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 Monkey Slam from Mad Atom, Epic Adventures: La Jangada from Urchin Games, Kirby’s Star Stacker from HAL Laboratory and Don’t Feed the Trolls from Francois Guibert.
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.
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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!
MONKEY SLAM by Martin Baker:
It seems like every other week we’re reviewing another iOS game that takes its base game mechanics from the classic Breakout game. That’s not a bad thing but it’s a little bit disappointing when the games that come out just seem to copy from the original game and don’t do anything particularly new. That’s not the case with Monkey Slam, developed by Mad Atom, which has gameplay that’s reminiscent of Breakout but with a colourful overlay, some interesting gameplay mechanics and more. This really is something different.
The gameplay in Monkey Slam revolves around the player controlling a giant monkey (or ape if you will) which is located at the bottom of the screen. The player uses this ape to bounce a smaller monkey around the screen in order to break the many blocks that populate each of the levels. If you’re starting to think that this game sounds a lot like Breakout then you’re not far off. It plays almost exactly like all of the Breakout clones that you’ve no doubt played on the iOS devices, but there are a couple of different aspects which make Monkey Slam a little bit more fun on the whole.
The main difference comes from the level design. In most of the Breakout clones, when you start each of the levels you’ll be greeted with a row of blocks, arranged linearly across the top of the screen. Some of them may take longer to break, forcing the player to hit them more than once, but the level design is almost exactly the same. Where Monkey Slam changes things up is that a lot of the levels will contain spinners, anvils and other aspects that will force the level to be much less linear and a whole heap more fun to play over and over again.
The controls of Monkey Slam simply task the player with moving the giant gorilla located at the bottom of the screen left and right in order to bounce the smaller monkey around the game screen. This means that most of the gameplay is done using just a single finger on the screen and therefore can be played by almost anyone with fingers (which is most people, hopefully). Things can get a little bit complicated as the game progresses, as things happen in the middle of the game screen such as bombs going off among other things, but in general you’ll just need to make use of a single finger in order to enjoy the game.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the sheer amount of Breakout clones that are all over the iOS devices but Monkey Slam is truly something different, and more importantly it’s really, really fun to play. You’ll find yourself coming back to the game time and time again and, at first, you won’t be quite sure why. Eventually you’ll realise that the combination of fantastic, colourful visuals, addictive gameplay and some honestly funny moments is the reason that you’re coming back to the game more than you would have normally expected to. You should have downloaded Monkey Slam as soon as you read the first line of this review but if for some reason you didn’t, go and do it now, you’ve really got no excuse.
EPIC ADVENTURES: LA JANGADA by Martin Baker:
A lot of games that you’ll find on the iOS App Store will either rely heavily on their gameplay, or rely heavily on their story. There aren’t many games that manage to cross the gap and become something special by marrying the two aspects together into a single, cohesive and truly impressive gameplay experience. With a name like ‘Epic Adventures’ you would probably assume that La Jangada relies heavily on its story, but could the game, developed by Urchin Games, be one of those elusive games which crosses between the two camps? Or is it just another game that doesn’t really know what it wants?
Epic Adventures: La Jangada jumps straight into the story as soon as you start it up for the first time. It’s not a great story, feeling a little bit too much like a bad soap opera from the 70s, but it’s serviceable and won’t get people turning the game off immediately. The story is told using still images created using 3D modelling software. The use of these 3D models has the effect of making the story feel a little static and lifeless and the player can’t help but think that it would have been much more visually appealing if the developer had used hand drawn animation or something with a little bit more warmth.
The actual gameplay comes into effect in between the sections of story. These gameplay elements usually comprise of a series of mini-games which relate to the area of the story which you’re currently playing. For example, an area of the story towards the start of the game relates to a character who has hidden roses in the garden of the main character’s house. The mini-game which follows has the player attempting to find all twelve of these roses in order to continue with the story. A lot of the mini-games that you’ll play will play out like this, usually involving tapping on areas of the screen in order to solve simple puzzles which further the story.
As most of the puzzles that you’ll be playing only really require the player to tap on different areas of the screen in order to progress, the entire game is easy to play by anyone that happens to have an iOS device. If you’re someone who prefers a little more action in their games, who tends to not have much patience when it comes to puzzle games, then it might not be something that they’re going to be interested in, but players of adventure games, and players with just a small amount of patience, will know exactly what to do with the game from the moment they start playing it.
At the end of the day, Epic Adventures: La Jangada is more of an interactive story than a game, which wouldn’t be so bad if the story wasn’t terrible 90% of the time. When the gameplay kicks in, which happens from time to time, it’s relatively fun to play but then the story starts up again, things advance and the player is left simply tapping the screen until they get to play the game for a few minutes again. There’s something there, under the surface, and with a better story it may have come to the surface, but as it stands La Jangada is a difficult game/story/application to recommend to people.
KIRKBY’S STAR STACKER by Jonny Lewis:
I played many a Game Boy game as a kid, not one of them a Kirby game. Kirby was lame, right? I mean, he’s pink. Pink is for girls. Girls…yuck. As I grew older I came to realise that girls are awesome and that Kirby is a miniature bad ass. Anyone that has played Super Smash Bros. will agree, and who can forget one of last year’s cutest games, Kirby’s Epic Yarn on the Wii. Happy fuzzy felt bliss.
This game is Kirby’s Star Stacker and it is a clone, of sorts, of other puzzle games that were knocking around at the time, Puyo Pop, Dr. Mario and Tetris all come to mind. Nintendo and Hasbro have added on a good helping of Kirby charm and some of his signature stars to add an extra layer of interest to the simple Puyo Pop puzzle formula. The aim of the game is simple, move and rotate Kirby’s falling friends (of which there are three) into place, with the aim of getting two or more together so that they disappear. An extra layer of strategy is present in Star Stacker, and this comes in the form of star pieces that either start on the game board or fall from the top of the screen with one of Kirby’s friends. You can use the stars as a sort of transmitter, or junction, to put two other pieces together. The aim of the main game, or ‘Round Clear’ mode, is clear the screen of all stars, which can be achieved quickly when you start racking up the combos.
There are four game modes in Kirby’s Star Stacker, Round Clear – which has four difficulty settings, VS – the games multiplayer mode, Challenge – an endless mode, and lastly Time Attack, which challenges you to clear as many stars as possible in 3 minutes. Round clear is where you’ll spend the majority of your time with Kirby’s Start Stacker at first, and it is here that I had the most fun with the game. The level of difficulty gradually ramps itself up into a frenzy of activity and, when all is said and done, for £2 Kirby’s Star Stacker is a great puzzle game to have in your pocket to dip into when you feel like it. Yes it has all the trademarks of an original Game Boy game, but it’s games like this that translate best to the modern mobile scene. Oh, and if your anything like me you’ll be booting up your 3DS just to hear the game’s old school 8-bit soundtrack.
DON’T FEED THE TROLLS: by Martin Baker:
The war that some games wage on the iOS App Store, the war that decides if they’re going to be successful or simply languish in the relative unknown, is won and lost based on the name of the app in question. Sometimes the name that a developer chooses can be indicative of what you’ll be doing in the application, sometimes it’s funny and sometimes it’s just good advice. Don’t Feed the Trolls, developed by Francois Guibert, sits firmly in that final camp; when it comes to iOS App names I don’t think I’ve ever heard such good advice. After all none of us ever want to feed the trolls. Do we?
Don’t Feed the Trolls is a game that is all about reactions, how quickly the player can react to what’s happening on the screen at any one moment. The whole point of the game is to get as many points as you possibly can, which can probably be said for a lot of games that we play on our iDevices and indeed on just about any other device. What you get points for doing in Don’t Feed the Trolls however, is what sets it apart from a lot of other games you’ll find yourself playing.
That aim of the game is to tap on the various bears that will pop into the screen from behind one of the numerous rocks in each level. The faster you tap the bears, the more points you’ll attain upon the level’s completion. So you’ll spend your time furiously tapping the screen in a sort of furry whack-a-mole game. Not everything is so cute and cuddly though, as sometimes instead of a bear, a troll will appear and if you happen to tap that troll, as you have been doing with the bears, you’ll lose one of your lives. Lose all of your lives and it’s game over; none of us want that. If you see a troll pop up, you don’t have to just wait around for it to disappear. Not at all. You can swipe across it in order to slap it across the face and gain yourself some nice bonus points. All of which helps to get you a higher score than anyone else.
The controls are easy to get to grips with and the only thing you’re going to need, apart from your favourite pointing utensil (your finger, for those of you who didn’t quite get my thinly veiled analogy), is some quick reflexes. Those bears come out from behind the rocks thick and fast, especially in the later levels, so you’ll be tapping on the screen fairly ferociously. It’ll be difficult if you’re not quick enough, to avoid tapping on the trolls instead of swiping across them. Most people will soon get used to it though, and once you’re “in the zone” there’ll be no stopping you.
Don’t Feed the Trolls is undoubtedly a game that a lot of people will miss. It’s got a strange name and an icon that doesn’t really look all too inviting (it’s a sad truth that a lot of people judge whether or not to download an iOS game based solely on its icon), but once you get into the game it’s actually rather fun. You’ll find yourself coming back to it time and time again just because you’ll think you can “get a better score this time around”. It’s not the greatest game out there but it’s fun, slightly addictive and doesn’t take itself too seriously.