Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 offers fast, fun games of Magic: the Gathering, but is hampered by a less-than-ideal control scheme and limited deck building.
- Easy to set up for quick sessions
- Several different competitive modes
- Challenge levels teach you how to take advantage of advanced mechanics
- Great fun in multiplayer with friends.
- Deck construction is extremely limited
- Dull campaign mode
- Controls are frustrating to deal with
- Bare bones presentation.
It’s hard to believe that Magic: The Gathering is almost 20 years old. The revolutionary collectible card game has had a massive influence on games, both tabletop and electronic alike, and it continues to drive at the forefront of an industry it established. For all of its popularity, however, it’s not an easy experience to translate into video game form. While Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 doesn’t offer all of the varied nuances and experiences that make the physical version of Magic so compelling, it does a serviceable job of translating the card game into a quick, easy-to-play format that casual players and veterans alike can enjoy–provided they can get past some of its caveats.
<img class="thumb" src="/game_img/2013/01/15/624319_20110524_embed012.jpg" alt="Amount of things that will soon be going down: a lot.” />
The rules of Magic: the Gathering involve players drawing magic power from varied sources, casting environment-altering spells, summoning creatures and fighters big and small, conjuring powerful magical artifacts, and using them to beat the crap out of each other. There’s far more nuance than that, of course; there are several different “colors” of spells with varied strengths and weaknesses, as well as numerous types of monsters and items with distinct traits and abilities. Magic is a strategic and competitive game that requires a great deal of forethought and reaction.
Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 simplifies things somewhat from the original card game by making the complex structure of Magic more palatable to newcomers and casual players. Rather than carefully choosing and constructing your deck of tricks card by card, you play one of several different preconstructed decks with distinct play styles, advantages, and drawbacks. As you play through the various single-player modes, you unlock new decks to use, as well as earn additional cards to augment each deck. Play itself is also streamlined and simplified, as DotP 2012 consolidates certain beginning and end phases of turns in the regular game into two “main” phases with a combat phase in between. While hardcore Magic players might balk at the changes–the inability to create a custom deck from scratch, in particular, will certainly turn off a few veterans–they help make the game a lot easier to dive into for a general audience.
There are numerous play modes available in DotP 2012. In Campaign mode you battle computer opponents, earning new decks and additional cards as you progress. In between matches are also optional, clever puzzle challenges that set up an established game situation–usually disadvantageous to you–that ask you to make smart use of the game rules and card abilities to turn it around. Going through the standard Campaign mode will also unlock Archenemy mode, which is new to the 2012 edition of the game. In this mode, you and two computer-controlled players take on a single, highly powered opponent who can bend certain rules and play powerful, environment-altering “scheme” cards each turn. There’s also Revenge mode, where the opponents you beat come back with bigger, more powerful decks. Unlike many other games in the card battle genre, there’s no overarching story or any sort of dialogue with characters going on during the campaign; you just beat one guy and move on to the next. It’s a bit of a disappointment because it would have been nice to interact, even superficially, with the world of Magic: the Gathering’s interesting characters and settings.
If you don’t feel like trudging through the campaign, there is a quick-play mode that will let you set up a game against up to four computer opponents in a standard winner-takes-all competition. The variant modes are more interesting, however; besides Archenemy, there’s also Two-Headed Giant, a two-versus-two team competition where you and a computer-controlled buddy (or a local player) combine forces and share a life pool while taking on an opposing two-player team. Competitive play against other human opponents is the biggest draw, however, and it’s done quite well. You can play either standard or ranked matches against friends or random players in any of the available game variants (though Archenemy, due to its nature, is unavailable for ranked play). Getting a group of friends together to play good-natured matches against each other or collaborate in one of the team play modes is tons of fun, but going up against random opponents is still something of a crapshoot. A common complaint in the last iteration was that players would disconnect if they started to lose a ranked match. “Cord pulling” out of a match in DotP 2012 is now counted as a loss toward a player who disconnects, but there are still other ways to grief an opponent, including stalling for as much time as possible. Online bugs also seemed to be present in rare cases, as we encountered a match where the game simply stalled forever as a player tried to activate a card ability, forcing us to concede.
While DotP 2012 can be a lot of fun, much of the enjoyment you potentially derive from the game comes from finding Magic: the Gathering interesting to play. The graphics are merely adequate (don’t expect any cool animations of the monsters you summon, for example) and the sound effects are nondescript and inoffensive. You also have to fight with the controls every step of the way as you attempt to enjoy the game. DotP’s control scheme feels awkward and unnatural with a controller because highlighting certain cards to zoom in and read their effect information requires choosing it like a menu selection with the analog stick–except you actually need to use the right analog stick to choose certain cards for some reason. If your opponent is casting spells, it can be extremely difficult to highlight and read the effects of the spell in the limited time before it takes effect, which leads to cases where it comes into play before you can react. Pressing buttons a split second too early or too late can lead to missed plays and annoying dialogue pop-ups.
As it stands, Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 provides a way to enjoy a simple game of Magic: the Gathering. Its limited customization options, serious control issues, and lack of extra flair keep it from being as interesting an experience as it could be, but you can still have a good time by getting a bunch of online or offline buddies together for games. And at $10, it’s certainly more affordable than going to your local card shop and buying cases of cards.
By Heidi Kemps
One of the reasons I always enjoyed the Dungeon Siege series is because long, drawn-out plot explanations aren’t necessary when beating the crap out of people and collecting loot. That, or I have distorted and fond memories of Dungeon Siege 2: walking up to my character’s destroyed farm, and immediately being told to pick up a weapon and kill anything that attacks me. Beat up a bunch of people? Sure, I can do that. Combat has always been the best part of these games for me. This time around, an overarching storyline gets half-heartily forced down your throat.
Dungeon Siege 3 borrows the conversation-driven storytelling approach from Mass Effect, without having as much of an influence on what occurs. Sure, there are moments where you can choose what sort of response is merited, or what action to take on, say, a prisoner of war, but these options are limited. To be frank, the fruition of your choices aren’t made apparent until the very end of the game — and with lifeless storyboard cut-scenes no less. Because of this strange disconnect (from realizing the impact of your decisions until the end), the story seems easily dismissable.
Initially, I did my best to pay close attention to the storyline. Yet the first hour or two makes this task a bit grueling; my main gripe is with how much time it takes to fill you in on what’s going on. The cut-scenes are long and dull; they throw so many awkward names at you; and it’s particularly challenging when you’re with a co-op partner and are waiting for the dry presentation to end. Of course, this issue gets mitigated with the cut-scene skip option. Other factors that help a bit include plenty of scattered book segments to pick up and read that provide additional morsels on what’s going on around you (somethingI enjoyed in Dungeon Siege 2); and how lore gets s collected and can be read at any time in the menu screen when I had confusion.
Luckily, the pace eventually picks up with the offering of side-quests and interesting boss battles that actually hook me. For the sake of getting myself into more combat situations (not for story elements), I play every single side-quest I came across — which then gets me addicted to leveling up Katarina (one of four playable characters, and the typical ranged character while the other fulfill similar magic and melee roles) and discovering how useful each of her abilities is. It’s not until my encounter with a Lescanzi witch that I start to warm up to taking dialogue choices seriously. Another interesting layer is how Dungeon Siege 3 gives players a chance to perform “deeds.” Based on the decisions made in discussions with other characters, the game then awards you with additional stamina, agility, and so forth. In the case of the witch, I give her ownership of a manor — which results in a boost to my will stat.
Strangely though, my most boring experience of the campaign happens during online co-op. I start a new campaign with a friend, and Dungeon Siege 3 surprisingly doesn’t accommodate appropriately for that. The tutorial screens never appear unless you are playing alone. I initially had no idea how large of an oversight this is until I have my co-op partner drop out of my game. It’s a shame too, because I believe the first few hours I loathed would have been spared of irritation if this wasn’t the case. For instance, when my friend and I first level up, we feel lost on how to upgrade our character’s abilities. Which result in us making a lot of careless decisions — unlocking skills with little thought. Also, I realize later rather than sooner how to utilize all of Katarina’s combative talents, once I make it through all of the tutorial screens alone.
Click the image above to check out all Dungeon Siege 3 screens.
The most meaningful piece of advice I can give you (from personal experience) is to choose your co-op partner wisely. An hour’s worth of discovered loot and acquired gold was put to waste in less than a minute when my cheeky coworker Jose visited a shop — I learned the hard way that your teammate can sell the items you don’t have equipped at any time. Oh, and money is shared with the whole party as well; I only noticed this when I tried to equip a new midriff-revealing corset for Katarina — I witnessed every item disappear suddenly.
If Jose wasn’t playing with me online, I could have punched him. On the upside, it’s easy to have friends drop in and out at any time — so I quickly told him to get the hell out. From there on out, I continued on alone. Initially, I worried that I would have a hard time getting through each quest without help, but the game compensates via a lot of save points. On top of that convenience, my A.I. party member needed revival only a handful of times during my entire playthrough.
Obsidian’s attempt at adding story elements fails to impress this time — which stands out even more due to how plenty of other RPGs (especially Obsidian’s) pull off a much better narrative. At most, the combat remains as fun as ever, and I enjoy playing the campaign as Katarina — seeing how quickly she drained health bars with her guns becomes a satisfying experience. It’s just unfortunate, though, that other factors such as the not-very-engaging story or the awkward co-op mechanics mar the “kill whatever that moves” experience of previous games.
Those of you with iOS devices might already be familiar with the game Quarrel. For me, it was an entirely new game. Knowing little about the game before actually playing it, I assumed it would be your typical Xbox LIVE boring board game. So you can imagine the surprise, and joy, when I booted it up to find out it was a mix of two of my favorite games — Scrabble and Risk.
Quarrel, at it's core, is an anagram game. You are given eight letters, each assigned a point value, and are tasked with spelling a word worth the most points. Similar to Scrabble, less common letters like "J" and "V" are worth more. Spell a word worth more points than your opponent and you win that round.
Here's the catch, and the part where Risk lovers like myself will find great joy and strategy in the game. Each Quarrel match takes place on an island map divided into an even amount of territories, with each player receiving an equal amount of troops. Each individual soldier you have represents a letter you can use when battling the opponent. Obviously, the more soldiers you have, the better chance you have of scoring more points. For instance, if you have 8 soldiers and your opponent as 4, not only do you have a chance of scoring more points by using more letters, but you also have the chance of actually solving the anagram — something the person with only 4 letters won't be able to do.
If you are the attacker and beat your opponent, you will conquer their territory and shift all but one of your soldiers into it. On the other hand, if you successfully defend your territory from an attacker, you will take their soldiers as prisoners and be able to use them towards your 8 letter count. As gameplay evolves, it really becomes a strategic cat-and-mouse game. Is it better to attack and conquer, or defend and try to build up forces? From a personal standpoint, my best wins have come from "turtling" or playing defensively.
Don't automatically assume because you have more letters you are guaranteed a victory. There were numerous matches where I've seen 4 letters upset 7 or 8 letters. It's all about the point value. If you use the more rare letters, there's a good chance you can outscore your opponent who may spell a longer, but simpler word. Be warned, if you attack with more soldiers than the defender and lose, he will take your attackers as prisoner. This is just one of the many ways the momentum in a game can swing abruptly.
Quarrel is about more than spelling. It's about spelling the less common words and strategically planning when to attack and when to defend. Those with a competitive mentality will find this game easily fills that niche.
A basic round consists of this — all players take turns attacking the enemy's territories. As an attacker you can choose to attack an adjacent territory, reinforce one of your own adjacent territories, or just skip your turn completely and collect your reinforcements. It should be noted, after your round as attacker your territories are bolstered with one extra soldier.
As a defender, your best hope is to just outwit the attacker and capture his soldiers. After you successfully attack or defend, you are rewarded points which go towards filling up a meter that offers a reward of one extra soldier to assist in future battles. If you are playing a game with more than two players, those not involved in the conflict still participate in the challenge to solve the anagram. Your results will have no bearing on the combat, but the points will still count towards your meter. Unfortunately, even with the challenge of solving the anagram, sitting on the sidelines and watching the action can get quite boring.
There are several different modes that vary in gameplay style, but all focus around this same gameplay concept of attack and defense. Domination mode is a series of matches that range from one-one-one battles to four-player face-offs — all with the goal of dominating the islands of Quarrel. Challenge mode is split into four different sections focusing on different aspects of the game like capturing four territories in a row or stealing a set number of prisoners. Showdown mode is for those of you who want one-on-one action. In this mode you will fight through the entire tier of AI competitors from the not-too-bright Dwayne to the dreaded Kali.
You'd think a game like this would go easy on you, but some of these NPCs are merciless. If you were thinking this is a kids game, you are wrong. Kali shows no mercy; she is both fast and intelligent. You will need a wide vocabulary to conquer her (or you'll need to cheat). Each NPC has a set personality that reflects in their gameplay style. Some are just plain dumb, while others are slower, but will take their time to spell great words. At times though, the game just feels impossible. It's a little frustrating, but it just makes winning that much more rewarding.
Of course, with a game like this, it all comes down to online multiplayer. In the limited experience I've had with multiplayer, I can tell you it has been some of the most stressful, fun, competitive games I've played in quite a while. The majority of matches last around 20-30 minutes, but I did have some that went into the hour-long range (I'd like to point out that I won a match with the anagram "Fishcake"). Like I mentioned, the constant momentum swing can lead to long games, but in the end, it makes the competitive juices flow more freely. Who wants to lose a match after 60 minutes? Like most online competitive games, you have the ability to player ranked matches or some more "casual" matches.
While single-player does offer a challenge, the human fallibility in multiplayer is what makes it great. In most cases, you know what you're getting with the NPCs. You know Kali won't crack under pressure. You know Dwayne won't be too bright (but you know that from his trucker hat). Humans on the other hand, well let's just say the pressure of the ticking clock can sometimes cause you to fold. It's happened to me.
Despite it's competitive nature, Quarrel has a charming look and feel to it. Between the vibrant colors, loopy sounds, and quirky soldiers, Quarrel has a sort of Spongebob innocence to it. You can't help but feel bad for the little minions when they get beat down 8 letters to 2.
At times, the animations do get tedious and you'll want to just skip them, which unfortunately you aren't able to do. Sometimes you just want a quick match, and having to sit through the soldiers pouncing on the others can get a little repetitive and slow down the game. An added skip action would be welcomed.
I never played the iPhone version so I can't comment on how well the game translates over to Xbox, but I can say the controls were smooth and fluid. It's easy to delete letters or the entire word, as well as select the letters you need. Though the timed clock gives some added pressure when having to scroll through each letter to form your word. It took some getting used to when reinforcing soldiers. Sometimes it can get a little tricky with the directional pad sending them to the right territory. Of course, that's just a minor nitpick. After a few games you'll get used to it.
Overall, Quarrel is a charming, fun game that will definitely challenge your wits — and is a very affordable 400 Microsoft Points. With great replay value and matches that will always keep you on the edge of your seat, Quarrel is easily one of the better investments on Xbox LIVE.
By Matt Liebl
Dungeon Twister has depth to spare, but that doesn’t entirely work in its favor.
- Deep strategy
- Comprehensive tutorial.
- Occasional crashes
- No local multiplayer.
The problem with board games is that you have to set them up before you start and clean ‘em up when you’re done. The popular board game Dungeon Master is now out on PlayStation Network, saving you the trouble of all that work. Unfortunately, this adaptation fails to take advantage of the freedom offered by the format, with bland visuals that do little to improve on the experience of looking at an actual game board. Toss in crashes and the absence of any board game’s most important feature–local multiplayer–and this version will leave you longing for the comfort of actual cards in your hand and actual friends at your side.
Although the Dungeon Twister board game is available in multiple languages (including English) and has enjoyed success throughout the world since its original French release in 2004, there’s a good chance that you aren’t familiar with this complex dungeon-based strategy game. Fortunately, the PlayStation Network edition includes a comprehensive tutorial spread over the course of 20 introductory missions. Less fortunately, that education takes entirely too long. The game presents its various rules in a generally accessible manner that makes a bunch of different rules come together effectively. There’s really no way you’ll reach the end of the tutorial missions without an intimate knowledge of how everything works.
Yet some of the lessons could easily have been condensed, and a number of the missions don’t teach you anything new–they just have you defeating a capable rival using skills mastered in lessons up to that point, and you have to win before you can continue learning how things work. Most new missions really do introduce an important new element and force you to use new knowledge, but your artificial nemesis is dull, and the amount of time that you must invest before the game finally concedes that you know all you need to know is demoralizing.
The Dungeon Twister board shows a collection of rooms populated with monsters and heroes and items, and each player receives cards that determine basic things like who gets to advance how many spaces in a given turn. The overall goal is to score a certain number of victory points, which are attained by guiding your characters across a dungeon, by eliminating enough of your opponent’s pieces, or by working out some effective combination of the two actions.
A variety of factors make the rush for victory points an interesting endeavor, including doors that must be broken or opened by certain character classes, and treasure chests that you can carry across the goal line for a nice bonus. There are also armor and weapons that add to your stats so that you’re more likely to survive against a powerful foe in direct combat; plus, you can find potions to extend your turn and rope that can form makeshift bridges over floor traps that would normally slow certain warriors.
Dungeon Twister has depth to spare, but that doesn’t entirely work in its favor.
- Deep strategy
- Comprehensive tutorial.
- Occasional crashes
- No local multiplayer.
Perhaps the game’s standout feature, once you’re comfortable with the finer points, is your ability to shift the orientation of rooms. Since individual rooms are actually miniature mazes, careful rotation can turn a straightforward charge into a strategic minefield. Suddenly, a piece of devastating equipment that was happily beyond the reach of your enemy is a mere two or three steps away from him, or a guarded path that blocks you from reaching the far side of the dungeon turns into a welcome mat as you twist away all resistance and make a mad dash to safety.
Unfortunately, thanks to a few rough edges and some technical issues, Dungeon Twister is good at making you forget the things it does well. The technical issues range from slightly irritating to thoroughly exasperating. Even in some of the simpler tutorial missions, you may fall victim to a game freeze or two, which is always bad but is even more frustrating here because freezes tend to occur near the end of a match. A good match might last as long as an hour (or more, if you tweak the settings), so defeat by game crash can be hard to take. That’s especially true if you spare a moment to think back to how much of that wasted period you spent waiting for your opponent to settle on which move he wanted to make, and then watching as those moves played out on the board.
A pleasant visual presentation might have alleviated any number of minor issues, but the game is entirely bland. The camera is positioned far enough away from the action that you can see most of the dungeon, which is handy, but you still have to scroll left or right on the larger maps, and the characters are difficult to distinguish from one another unless you zoom in closer. In battle, warriors swing clubs and swords and books at each other, but none of their interactions are convincing. Between brawls, you have only grunts or growls and ambient noise (like dripping water or howling gusts of air) to keep you engaged. The only time the game exhibits personality is when a warrior does a little jig upon reaching safety on the opposite side of the board, but even that seems halfhearted.
One design decision is disappointing no matter how you look at it: the lack of local multiplayer. At least as much as something like Monopoly or chess, the core concept here derives most of its value from face-to-face competition, yet the PlayStation Network adaptation only lets you face off against a computer opponent or an online rival. There are matchmaking and invite options, but those pale in comparison to the affordable thrill that local multiplayer might have so easily provided. You should still get some enjoyment out of the game, in spite of that particular stumble, but the path that leads to boredom has been shortened, and that’s the wrong sort of twist for any dungeon.
By Jason Venter
One can argue the fighting genre wouldn’t be the same without the Street Fighter games. Yes, I remember going to the arcade, throwing in some quarters and throwing down on Street Fighter as a kid. For some, Street Fighter is the best, period. Now, with technology blooming, the Street Fighter series tries to find its identity in the mobile world with the help of a few familiar faces from Tekken in Street Fighter X Tekken for iOS devices.
Obviously, Street Fighter X Tekken for the iPhone is the watered down, mobile version of the console games with the same name. As iPhones and everything i-related has taken over the world, it seems more and more “big titles” are coming to the mobile scene. Capcom has been an early adopter of good mobile games with many Street Fighter games already available. But how does Street Fighter X Tekken stack up in the ever-growing mobile game world?
Street Fighter X Tekken is going to be a lot of what you’re used to and have seen before. However, Capcom hasn’t released a truly immersive fighting experience on mobile devices. I think they come close on this one. Street Fighter X Tekken lets you take control of 10 characters from the two franchises, five from each franchise. From the characters available, players will choose two fighters for your team with every battle consisting of a 2 vs. 2 mentality. There are two modes available, which include the standard single-player mode and Global Battle (multiplayer mode) with most of your fun being available through online multiplayer or Bluetooth battles if you have friends that want to battle it out locally.
In short, it’s not bad, but it does need some work. Let’s start with the good. Visually, it is pleasing to the eye. It’s no Infinity Blade, but in my opinion, it’s one of the better looking games on the iPhone and possibly the best-looking Street Fighter game available for iOS. The backgrounds aren’t just static backgrounds. They are animated and to just the right level where it’s not distracting to the player, but instead adds to the environment in a way that immerses you more into the game.
In addition to nice visual aesthetics, Street Fighter X Tekken does a nice job mashing up the two franchises to create one of the most solid fighting games for mobile devices. It feels like a solid Street Fighter title without the complexities of standard fighting controls. The controls have finally taken a step in the right direction making it a lot simpler to actually play a fighting game of this caliber on a touch screen. It is possible for hardcore fighting fans to turn their back on this title because of this, but for the more casual, it’s nice to be able to land some epic moves comfortably. But for you hardcore peeps out there, there is still an option to change the controls to the half circle techniques if your heart so desires.
The game also implements a new Pandora’s Box mechanic. Although, it is definitely a risk to use. It is a welcomed and unique addition to the game. By sacrificing your teammate, you’re allowed a brief power up of different abilities including Immense Power, quickness, etc. From my experience, I didn’t see many strong players using the option, but it’s nice to have it there in case you need it.
Where this game stumbles is it’s extreme lack of content. It falters on a couple of levels in this aspect. First, you will notice Street Fighter X Tekken only offers 10 characters. With other Street Fighter titles already offering significantly more characters than 10, it’s a travesty that this title doesn’t offer more characters especially considering this title has characters from both Street Fighter and Tekken. With two franchises at your disposal, the game should absolutely have more than 10 playable characters.
Outside of playable characters, there just isn’t that much to do. With essentially only two playable modes, you’ll find yourself gravitating toward online multiplayer where a bulk of your fun will be had.Also, there had been some complaints with online multiplayer lagging. However, with a strong connection, the online multiplayer will be your favorite mode in this game without a doubt. Obviously, any game will suffer with a slow connection. Most players should have a fast enough connection to throw thousands of hadokens against thousands of players.
Street Fighter X Tekken is a great buy for $2.99. It has extremely fun gameplay and nice visuals. Will you get tired of it quickly though? It’s possible with the lack of content that it currently offers. However, it is absolutely one of the most smooth and easy-to-play fighters available to date. Definitely give it a shot at $2.99. However, if you decide to battle me online, don’t forget to block my mad street fighting skills. HADOKEN!
By Heath Hooker
Gamezone Review Rating
As a sports fan, a genuinely passionate one at that, two sports have always caught my eye for their unusual play styles: cricket and rugby. Cricket seemingly takes after baseball, but offers several major tweaks in terms of the field, equipment (or lack thereof), and "base" running. Nevertheless,WorldCup Cricket Feverhas unleashed onto the iOS marketplace and attempts to offer a realistic cricket experience. DoesUTV Indiagames rock a solid hit with Fever or an embarrassing swing and miss?
Like previous titles from UTV, Fever aims to offer short, action-packed matches through realistic gameplay. Fever's problem, though, begins with its intent. The game features little explanation on how to control both bowling and hitting; if you want to learn the game of cricket through an extensive rule book, look elsewhere because Fever fails to layout the ground rules for this somewhat confusing sport. Once you catch on to the hitting and bowling aspects, matches become a little more exciting, but the lack of fielding controls makes you feel like you're barley affecting the outcome of each bowl or swing.
Surprisingly, the game offers a variety of detailed venues where over a dozen teams from around the world can duke it out (sorry, no North American squad). These squads feature generic player names with bodies that look a little less blocky than aMinecraftcharacter. UTV's decision to use the same engine from past games reveals itself through these horrid player models that move like freshly-greased robots. In addition, Fever features no commentating (at all) — simply put, these matches become boring quickly.
As stated earlier, these matches are designed to be played in quick spurts. Because of this, Fever offers a thin amount of game modes; the three-over matches truly are the main component of the title. A career mode or simple franchise mode would have helped offer players a more in-depth dive with Fever's intentions, but sadly, you're left with little on your plate.
Overall,WorldCup Cricket Feveroffers the bare minimum for cricket fans. Bowling and hitting controls are firm and vastly improved, but outside of that, you'll find little that hasn't been done before. One of the best things about sporting titles are that they offer newcomers a chance to learn the sport through practice and rules, but Fever throws you into the wolves without any true knowledge of what is going on. If you're a cricket fan and are looking for a game to hold you over while you're waiting for the train, then definitely take a look at what Fever has to offer, but for hardcore fans and "noobs," pick up a rule book and order the cricket TV channel.
When the original Infinity Blade debuted on iOS devices last year, it really pushed forward the mobile gaming market. The way it produced unmatchable visuals for the iPad and iPhone platforms was really a thing of beauty. Even though the gameplay wasn’t anywhere near what, say, Dark Souls had to offer, it provided enough hack-and-slash fun to make the game a best seller. Still, there were some quirks we had to get over, like the lack of variety in enemies and such. However, Chair Entertainment has appeared to address them all with Infinity Blade II, a much mightier game than the original.
The premise is about the same as the first, but we’re not complaining. You take on the role of Siris, a knight seeking to vengeance his father’s death by bringing down a mighty oppressor by the name of the God King. Like any good journey, though, there are huge assortments of enemies you’ll have to overcome, and even when you reach the final battle, he’s so overpowered that you may not be able to take him. But there’s the glory of reincarnation and the ability to come back, build yourself up with better skills and weapons, and eventually get to the point that the King will fall to your metal boots. Maybe.
Where Infinity Blade followed a pretty straight and narrow path, the sequel actually branches out. You can go the quickest route possible to get to the God King, but the beauty of the game lies in seeing where its multiple paths take you, and what enemies and treasures are waiting for you. This is a game that not only asks for repeat plays, but practically commands them, just so you can get the most experience out of it. Some of the encounters are well worth taking on, especially larger enemies that damn near fill the screen. (Don’t worry, you can still take them down with natural hack-and-slash attacks, and maybe a little magic for good measure.)
Gameplay still requires the trial-and-error treatment, as you wait to pull off a defensive technique on an incoming enemy, then strike back with all the fury you possibly can. The game thrives on its touch-screen-based gameplay, and it works just as well as the original, if not better. You can charge certain attacks for extra strength, or you can call upon a magic attack if you find yourself in a bind or can’t get over a certain enemy’s strikes.
That being said, where Infinity Blade II’s replayability really lies is in its weapon loadout. There are a number of cool tools you can use here, like a battle-axe that requires both hands (but boosts your strength) or the option of double wielding, which speeds up your attacks but leaves you mildly defenseless. This also adds to the game’s replay value, as you’ll be curious to see which type of combat works best for you. No matter which way you go, though, you’ll be thoroughly pleased at how well it’s executed.
Once you finish each battle in brilliant, bloody fashion, you’ll score valuable XP, which you can then turn around to level up your warrior. This was a huge part of the first game, and it seems even more pivotal here, as you’ll need to boost yourself up rather well in order to even be a serviceable opponent to the God King. You’ll spend hours just trying to find the best customization possible – a sign of a long-lasting game, to be sure.
Another reason to explore everything Infinity Blade II has to offer is the visuals. You’ll love how this game looks on your iPad 2 display, with little details standing out in the environments and absolutely breathtaking animation on the enemies. The camera view makes it easy to see what’s happening in each battle, and the menus show you exactly where you can level up and other options. iOS-based games really don’t look much better than this. They don’t sound much better either, as the audio is top notch, between the dramatic music cues and the headphone-worthy sound effects.
Infinity Blade II’s performance does skimp quite a bit on older devices, as the game crashed every so often on the iPad and iPhone. It was obviously built with the newer ones in mind when it comes to playing at its best. Just something to keep in mind before you plunk down that $6.99.
Everyone else, though, shouldn’t hesitate. Like the original game, Infinity Blade II is a testament to the raw power of Apple’s devices, and a wondrous game filled with addictive gameplay and the kind of elements that will really draw you in for hours at a time. Plus, those visuals…you’d be hard pressed to confuse this for an HD-based console game. Kudos to Chair Entertainment for keeping this Blade on the sharp side.
Now…how about that Shadow Complex 2?
Out of all of Taito’s classic shooters, aside from the Space Invaders offerings, I really have an admiration for RayStorm. First released on the PS One long ago (through Working Designs), the game’s grown on me with its Zuntana-produced soundtrack, strong 3D graphics (running at 60 frames-per-second — no small feat for such a detailed shooter) and plenty of action on two levels of play.
Since that time, RayStorm has seen a pair of re-releases. It made its way to Xbox Live Arcade months ago in high-definition format with good results, and now it’s available on the Apple App Store for iPad and iPhone models, the latest in Taito’s retro releases. While the cost is questionable, the fun you’ll have with this shooter certainly isn’t.
In the game, you’re a lone spaceship (out of select models available) fighting against the nasty Secilia Federation, who have plans for Earth. Your attacks are divided between blasting enemies in the skies and locking on to targets below. It’s a variation of the Xevious process, but the lock-on lasers for both models work more effectively than Namco’s game did. Furthermore, you also have a special attack that you can charge up, obliterating all targets on-screen with very little effort. (We recommend saving it for bosses, as they can be tough hombres.)
Taito has modified RayStorm to work with touch-screen gameplay, and it’s very responsive, though you have to hold your device in wide-screen format to play it. That’s for the better, as you’ve got more room to maneuver your ship that way. In addition, the company has thrown in a slew of options, including separate Arcade and iPhone Modes. These not only have their own settings and stage select screens, but completely different Zuntana soundtracks, including a sweet remixed one. (The original is good, too.)
The game also supports GameCenter, so you can post your best scores to compare with others and unlock Achievements for certain areas of the game. Sadly, that’s about it on extras, and for a game that sells for around nine bucks, that may be a bit much to ask for.
Still, RayStorm retains every bit of its retro-flavored splendor, especially in the graphics. What they lack in the high-definition polish that most Cave shooters have these days, they make up for with well-restored graphics from the original game, as well as good-looking explosions and an array of backgrounds to fly through. Deep space is particularly my favorite, as you can obliterate ships from a distance with lock-on lasers while still contending with forces right in front of you.
If you’re a shooter fan who has collected every shmup in the Cave collection among other available titles, RayStorm will fit right in your collection — right alongside its prequel, RayForce. The high price and lack of extras or HD support might have some of you thinking it’s a bit too ancient, but better to restore something that was fine the way it was rather than tinker with it and screw it up. Now we just hope that RayCrisis gets equal treatment somewhere down the line…