Zephyrus of the Anemoi

.the ramblings of a radman.

Category: Video Games (page 2 of 8)

A Call of Duty game built from the ground up for iOS?

Call of Duty Strike Team FPS

Okay, maybe not from the ground up, but it’s not a port. Activision managed to sneak Call of Duty: Strike Team onto the App Store without anyone even knowing it was in development. And, it’s not a tie-in or cheap port of an existing Call of Duty game. It’s a self-contained campaign built specifically for mobile devices.

Now, I’m not a fan of the Call of Duty series. I enjoyed Modern Warfare and played the coop parts of its sequel, but never spent much time in any other version of the games. But, this game certainly piques my interest. Most noticeably because it does not require you to play through the game as an FPS. Strike Team has a really cool 3rd-person tactical display that lets you issue commands to the entire squad and play the game like a squad-based, real-time strategy game. And, from what I’ve read about the game so far, it never forces you to play in one view mode or the other.

Call of Duty Strike Team Tac

Honestly, this is a really smart move for a mobile game. FPS controls on touchscreen devices are never as good as consoles or PCs, but by being able to switch viewpoints to try different tactics, players don’t have to get frustrated with on-screen controls. Plus, tactical strategy games play really, really well on iOS devices, especially the iPad.

Anyway, if you’re a CoD fan, or just want to see how well a hybrid squad-based tactical strategy FPS can work, be sure and download it here.

Star Wars Pinball for iOS is free until the 9th: May the Force be with you!

I snatched up Star Wars Pinball for iPhone and iPad a couple days ago, but didn’t realize until today that it was still free. Not only is it still free, it’s free for 5 more days. So, seriously, if you like Star Wars or pinball or are part of a Venn diagram in which those things overlap and your sexy bits begin to tingle, then go download this. Right. Now.

The first table is included in the download and two additional tables can be purchased for $1 each. Unlocking the extra tables is actually key to one of the other cool features of the game: the ability to team up with your friends on either the Light Side or Dark Side and compete against the world.

Basically, every player has a “Force Score” which is based on your score, the number of tables you have played on, and how many friends you have playing via Game Center. Then, all of your points are used in support of either the Light Side or the Dark Side. The entire app’s interface is used to show which side is currently winning, by splitting it into blue on the left and red on the right. The percentage of the screen covered by each color indicates the current winning side.

Currently, I’m on the Light Side, but I’ve always loved an underdog, so it seems likely that I’ll eventually let my hatred consume me and fall. Join me, and together we can rule the galaxy as blogger and reader!

If we’re not Game Center friends already, send me an invite. My name is Zepfhyr. Be sure to include that you read the blog so I know to approve you.

Now get out there and download the game before it’s too late. Help me, readers! You’re my only hope!

Best of the best iOS apps free to celebrate App Store’s 5th Anniversary

To celebrate the iOS App Store’s 5th anniversary, several app developers have decided to make their apps free for a short period of time. Now, free apps are pretty common on the App Store, but a couple of the apps on this list have never been free before, and are arguably some of the best in the entire storefront.

Infinity Blade II – I’ve talked before (at length) about the Infinity Blade series. It’s easily one of the best games released for iOS devices, and still remains one of my favorite games of all time, on any system. For the first time since it’s release in December of 2011, it has gone free, and I highly recommend you snap it up at this point. Especially if you have already played the original and want to continue the story. Also, since Infinity Blade: Dungeons has been put on indefinite hold, it may be a while before we get to play another game in the series. Also, the original Infinity Blade is on sale for $2.99, as well.

Tiny Wings & Tiny Wings HD – Tiny Wings might just have the catchiest music in the entire App Store. I’m not kidding. It’s incredible. The gameplay is also incredibly simple. You control a bird whose wings are tiny, but all he wants to do is fly. You are racing against time as your bird will only travel while the sun is up. If the sunset catches you, your game is over. Simply press on the screen to cause the bird to descend and let go to let him fly. Using the hills, gravity, and timing, you can soar farther and farther, moving to new islands with new challenges, each more frustratingly difficult than the last. I highly recommend this game, but be warned: you will lose several hours to this game.

Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery – I have been a huge fan of point-and-click adventure games in the past, but never have I found one that found such a remarkable combination of art style, musical direction, and action-oriented gameplay as this one. With a story that is at once both familiar and bizarre and a gameplay mechanic that is affected by the actual lunar cycle, this game is easily my favorite iOS title of all time. I cannot recommend it enough and Capybara Games has marked the Universal edition free for a time. There is no reason you shouldn’t be downloading this game right now.

There are a number of other apps that are currently free, and if any new and noteworthy ones appear, I’ll add them here. Check out the list I found over on Reddit.

Today’s awesome iOS releases: Star Wars: KOTOR and Warhammer Quest (plus a free copy of Magicka!)

I’m going to skip the boring lead-in and jump right to the meat of this post.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is out now for the iPad. If you’ve never played it, then you’re in for a treat. KOTOR was built on the same basic mechanics as Neverwinter Nights and an improved engine, Bioware gave players a chance to finally step into a Star Wars video game like never before. While later forays (like Mass Effect) into the RPG market would prove far more ambitious, KOTOR was notable in that it allowed players to essentially play inside a D&D world that was Star Wars themed. Quest outcomes had an effect on story and sometimes even future quests. Dialogue between players could drastically alter one’s “alignment”, plunging the player’s character into the Dark Side (which affected gameplay mechanics, as well as parts of the story).

This review over at IGN has more details on the game, which they gave an 8.8. The game is available in the App Store for $10.

The second piece of news I have to share is that Warhammer Quest was released for iOS late last night. If you’ve never heard of Warhammer Quest, then spend more time reading my blog. :-p

Warhammer Quest is, in my opinion, the definitive cooperative dungeon crawler hack-and-slash board game. If you like rolling dice to chop things up and loot the bloody entrails, then this game is perfect for you. The only issue with Warhammer Quest that any of my friends and family ever have is that it’s too bloody hard. There are a number of times in the game where a bad dice roll means your character is just gone. Forever.

Of course, house rules often allow players to make some sort of exception to perma-death, as no one wants to spend 10 hours building a character only to have him vanish into the aether because the odds are against them.

The iOS release is brought to you by Rodeo Games, the creators of the Hunters series for iOS. While those games were pretty good, Warhammer Quest is vastly improved over those. Where Hunters focused on building a team of mercenaries to complete tasks, level up, and buy new equipment, Warhammer Quest is focused on venturing forth with a team of adventurers to do battle, level… up, and… buy new… equipment… Okay, so it’s basically the same game with orcs and dwarves and goblins and elves and magic and axes. But trust me, it’s better.

Sadly, a few things were lost in the translation from board game to video game: most notably, multiplayer. While it’s still possible to sit around a single iPad with your friends and take turns controlling individual characters, the game just isn’t designed for that. Further, in becoming a video game, some of the charm of the original is lost. Warhammer Quest for iOS is perfect for those that loved to play WHQ by themselves when no one else was available and they needed a dungeon-looting fix. But for those that want the camaraderie that taking a party on an adventure that was almost certainly going to result in one or more deaths, you won’t find it here.

Still, it’s worth the $5 for the single player features alone. And, if you find you’ve burned through the game with all the starting heroes and want more, you can purchase more from the game’s store (however, the price is a bit high in my opinion).

So go check it out and give it a go. And when you’re done, try and find a copy of the board game on Amazon to play with your friends. The iOS release is available in the App Store.

Lastly, I wanted to share the best deal of the day with you. Magicka for iPad is currently FREE! Magicka feels like Castle Crashers but with a much heavier emphasis on sorcery and team-killing. In fact, one of the best features of the game is being able to cast spells on your friends to hurt help them.

I don’t need to explain this one much because it’s free. If you’re not going to download it purely on my recommendation and it’s $0 price tag, then I weep for you. It’s in the App Store, like all the others.

Once More Through the Wormhole: An Adventure with Stargate SG-1

Today I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Stargate SG-1: Unleashed was available in the App Store. I was surprised because I hadn’t even known that the game was so far along in development. I had read about a Stargate game coming from Arkalis Interactive (the developers behind the other officially licensed Stargate iOS app: Stargate Command), but didn’t realize it was ready for release.

Stargate SG-1: Unleashed is an episodic adventure game for iPad and iPhone that lets you play as the cast of the hit TV show. The big four actors have returned to voice their characters, though sadly, they’re the only ones (Don S. Davis passed away shortly after the series ended). The game also appears to use the same level design as the Stargate Command app, which was incredibly accurate. However, I’ve spent very little time in the SGC since starting the game, so it’s hard to say how detailed it actually is. But enough about fan service, let’s get to the good stuff.

SG-1 exits the Stargate

If you were a fan of the Stargate series, then you know the basics. The Go’auld are evil parasites. They take control of human hosts and make them do bad things. They use their advanced technology to demand worship as gods and they generally do lots of really bad things. SG-1 works to stop them. It seems like every week, something that threatens Earth is discovered and SG-1 has to work to save us all. Except in the summer. Summers always seemed so boring.

Anyway, a Go’auld that had been sleeping for 1000 years was set free and SG-1 are trying to stop her. The gameplay is similar to other adventure games on iOS. Movement is handled with a virtual thumbstick on the left side of the screen. Moving a finger around on the right side turns the camera. Tapping on certain objects will let you interact with them. The dialogue is very well-written, though the delivery suffers a bit, due to the storytelling format. It’s not awful, but it’s obvious that the actors are not recording their lines in the same room together. That said, Jack still has some excellent one-liners.

Jack is witty, as always

Speaking of dialogue, whenever you enter into a conversation with someone, you have options on how you can respond. Usually, your choices only determine the order in which you get your story information. Other times, certain responses are included for humorous effect. Some conversations can be had more than once, letting you try all the combinations, but many are one-time only, so you can find something new on a subsequent playthrough.

Daniel Jackson seeks help from a prisoner

There is also a battle mechanic in which your character takes cover behind an object and pops up to shoot at targets. You can select different weapons and enemies have differing amounts of health. It’s very simple compared to many of today’s iOS shooters, but still quite fun and occasionally challenging.

Unfortunately, it’s not all Tau’ri and Chappa’ai: there are some missteps along the way. When moving around the game world, the camera can be frustrating. It has a strange momentum to it when you swipe your finger that can make it irritating to point it in just the right direction. It also doesn’t move on its own, so if you want to change direction, you’ve got to turn the character with the thumbstick and swipe the screen around to see where you’re going. It’s not an uncommon control scheme on iOS, but with the janky camera movement, it can be very frustrating at times. Thankfully, it isn’t an issue during key gameplay sections (with one exception so far, during the tutorial).

The game is episodic, with three chapters currently planned. It seems likely that each will cost a fiver, so you can expect to shell out fifteen clams to see how the entire story plays out. But, when you consider what you’re getting, it’s well worth the money. We may never get another Stargate SG-1 “movie”, and my dream of another series dies a little more every day, but the world is still alive to some and they want to keep it alive for us, as well.

I highly recommend any fans of the series or the genre give it a go. I’m anxious to hear your thoughts. Ral’tora’kee!

Today in Letterpress

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Technically, I think that’s a proper noun (to my knowledge, the clearing of four lines at once, is still written as a Tetris, not a tetris), but it’s a good one, so I’m not complaining.

Today in iOS: Wit, rhythm, and fantasy

Three things:

One, The Bard’s Tale for iOS is free for a limited time. It’s a birds-eye view dungeon crawler similar in style to the Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, X-Men Legends, Champions of Norrath, and Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. While the original The Bard’s Tale series was a western-RPG in the vein of Might & Magic and Eye of the Beholder, the 2004 release for consoles and PC had nothing in common with its namesake due to licensing rights. However, the iOS version was released as a sort of “collector’s edition” and comes with the ability to download the original Interplay classics for free inside the app. Plus, it includes 60beat support if you feel like you simply must play this game with a controller.

Two, Square-Enix released Theatrhythm Final Fantasy for iOS late last night. It’s a rhythm game that was originally released for the Nintendo DS. However, it seems that Squeenix’s recent-ish release of Symphonica, another rhythm game with a rather verbose story and beautiful hand-drawn anime artwork. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy is a free download, but that will only get you two songs and a handful of characters with which to play the game. In order to unlock more content, you’ll have to pay for it. Unsurprisingly, unlocking all of the content that the game has to offer will set you back $88.11 plus taxes. But, if you just can’t live without your Final Fantasy fix, or you’ve got $100 burning a hole in your pocket, check it out.

Lastly, Google Maps for iOS is now available, if you’re the type of person that cares. Personally, I’ve never had any issues with Apple’s Maps that were more serious than the issues I had with Google’s, so I won’t be using it. Especially because I had forgotten how ugly Google’s map tiles were. However, if you need transit directions on your iPhone, Google’s app is the way to go.

Wii U: First Impressions (SPOILER ALERT: It’s a pain in the ass, but fun to play)

The majority of this post was written as part of a survey for Nintendo about my first impressions of the system (some parts were edited or added later). Since writing it, I’ve finally been able to play the device and it’s quite fun. But, I’m still furious about the transition of purchased content from the Wii to the Wii U and will unlikely ever be happy unless Nintendo provides a way to restore lost functionality to particular games and/or allows for the re-transfer of content back to a Wii (highly unlikely). I look forward to seeing new games for the system, but will rarely, if ever, purchase digital content from Nintendo again due to their poor legacy support.

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I have rather mixed feelings about the Wii U. I love the GamePad and am really excited about the potential for new gameplay elements (as I always loved the GameBoy to GameCube connectivity of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures and Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles), but am a little disappointed in a number of execution missteps with a new system and legacy support.

First, having to download an update that takes over two hours just so that you can have full access to all the features of the Wii U when you take it out of the box is ridiculous. If a product isn’t ready, don’t ship it. Forcing someone to essentially download an entirely new software/firmware to their system before they can even begin using all of its features is ludicrous. Especially when that update loses connection repeatedly during the download. Thankfully, it picks up where it leaves off in the download rather than starting over or I would have simply returned the system.

Second, the transfer of content from the original Wii to the Wii U is clunky, slow, and treats original Wii owners like criminals. On top of that, it’s dangerously simple to lose all of your content that you paid money for during the transfer process. Since transferring the content to the SD card removes it from the original Wii and disables it from being used on that Wii entirely, if something happens to the SD card after, or if the Wii U crashes during import, all of your content is not only lost, but completely inaccessible. I was fortunate that, during my import of content, my Wii U only froze up while it was downloading a WiiWare title, which appears to be the final step in transferring content. Thankfully, my purchase history and save data had already been copied and I didn’t lose anything. But that doesn’t change the fact that this is a horrible way to transfer content when companies like Microsoft can simply access your online purchase history tied to a specific account and allow you to specify a new console as yours and begin downloading your games to it. While this does allow the old console to continue playing games that were on it, it still prevents them from being redownloaded if they are deleted, thus ensuring that a person can’t simply purchase a new console and reliably sell their old one with all of their content intact, essentially “pirating” their content (which is, I’m sure, the primary reason why the Wii U’s transfer is so ridiculous).

Further, I’m a longtime Nintendo fan and I’ve always likened Nintendo to my other favorite company, Apple. However, the Wii to Wii U transfer is decidedly un-Apple and worse, it’s anti-consumer. Ignoring the fact that Apple lets you use purchased content on multiple devices for free, Nintendo has made the entire process such a hassle that it is easier for most users to simply repurchase the content they most want on their Wii U. Especially as they can continue to use the original Wii afterward. As it stands now, my Wii is completely unnecessary, since I can’t do anything with it except play Wii and GameCube games. Which means, it will only ever be used to play GameCube games, which is a huge waste of its awesome potential. On top of that, I’m not even sure I want to play any of my WiiWare and Virtual Console games on my Wii U as my only controller options are the Wii Remote and Classic Controller, which limits my gameplay options and restricts me to 4 players rather than 5 for TurboGrafx-16 titles and 8 for some WiiWare titles. This is beyond ridiculous and just highlights how poorly legacy support was implemented. Rather than forcing me to load an entire Wii emulator (or is it virtualized? not that it matters from a usability standpoint), legacy content should have simply been accessible from the Wii U menu and without all this painful jumping through hoops that leaves your original Wii a shell of what it used to be.

I truly hope that Nintendo has learned a valuable lesson from this system launch and recognizes that they are no longer playing in a world where they set the example and the rest of the industry follows. Microsoft is a terribly managed company that makes boneheaded decision after boneheaded decision, yet they have handled their console upgrade/transfer business significantly better than Nintendo has. Apple doesn’t even make consoles, yet they are consistently outselling and outperforming the competition because they know that what is most important is making life easier for their customers and treating them like responsible individuals. I have never pirated content for my iPhone or iPad, despite how easy it is to do so. Nor have I done so for my Xbox, even though it’s only slightly less difficult to transfer content to a new Xbox and sell the old one with a bunch of games still installed. I am not a criminal. Don’t treat me like one.

Third, the very day after installing a several gigabyte update just so I could use the damned thing, a new system update was required before I could play disc-based games. This one was a little over 2 gigabytes in size, so it only took a little over an hour to download and never disconnected during the process. But it didn’t change the fact that the system I purchased was unplayable for 2 straight days because I had to wait for system updates each time I sat down to play it.

I am a longtime, and loyal, Nintendo customer. Unfortunately, due to the current state of affairs for a Wii to Wii U owner, I may not be able to say that for much longer. As it stands now, I highly recommend that anyone purchasing a Wii U leave their Wii content intact so that it remains a useful piece of hardware and simply ignore the Wii Menu channel on the Wii U except to play Wii games. You can always transfer your content in the future if you so desire.

The Opera House at the End of the Universe

I’ve been a fan of Japanese roleplaying games since I was a young child, when I first played Dragon Warrior (originally, Dragon Quest, in Japan) and Final Fantasy on the NES. That love did not fade throughout the years, and I still love to play a good, old-fashioned melodrama now and then. The Final Fantasy series is probably the most famous RPG in the Americas, so it’s no surprise that they hold an extra special place in my heart.

About a year-and-a-half ago, I finished playing Chaos Rings (also for iPad), the first in a new RPG series published by Square-Enix but developed by Media.Vision exclusively for the iPhone and iPod touch. Soon, it was released for the iPad and even recently was made available for Android. I loved the game and had many glowing praises to sing of it to friends and family. Unfortunately, despite how much fun it was, it still didn’t feel as epic or robust as many other RPGs available for consoles. There was a definite level of polish to the graphics and animation, sound effects and music, and combat system that was missing from other RPGs available for iOS, but it certainly wasn’t up to the same level as a Final Fantasy title.

When I finished Chaos Rings, I took a break from the series for a while. Even though I had Chaos Rings Ω (also for iPad) already installed on my iPhone, the game felt more like an expansion than a new game. It used the same tile sets, enemy models, skills, and even music of the first game. The story was the biggest change, however. The game follows the lives of two characters from the original Chaos Rings. As a prequel, it dealt with how those two characters won the previous Ark Arena combat. What really made the story stand out was how instead of simply playing through the same game concept as before, several serious issues occurred that completely derailed the traditional Ark Arena tournament. Unfortunately, after having spent hours and hours grinding my characters in the original Chaos Rings to max level, I couldn’t bring myself to play Omega right away.

Thankfully, after taking some time off, playing Omega started to feel more like a whole new game. I recently finished it and felt that it was a better game than the original and that the story was a lot better, as well. I still feel that the overall plot of the original is a much better tale, but the storytelling in that game is not as good as in Omega. That may have something to do with the original being 4 different stories, each told by a different protagonist couple. The best feature of the original Chaos Rings was the quantum nature of the story. Each time you played as a different couple, various elements of the story were significantly different. This was most notable when playing as Olgar and Ayuta. In fact, Ayuta’s story was my favorite of them all, because it reveals so much about the Ark and how it came to be. Olgar’s story is also better than the others because of the way the Ayuta in his timeline has become twisted and evil.

Omega, instead of having multiple scenarios to play through, has an Extra mode that can be entered after finishing the primary story. In this mode, there is an entirely new story that is a parody of the series as a whole. Everyone lives and is happy, despite the original storyline. Plus, it marks the return of two characters that get killed at the beginning of Chaos Rings (in every scenario you get to watch them die before they even have personalities). They’re actually quite charming in that cluelessly insane way that so many foils are in Japanese RPGs.

Now that I’ve finished Omega, I’ve begun to play Chaos Rings II (also for iPad). Simply put, the game is beautiful. I purchased this one on the iPad because I wanted to see what kind of difference it made. The visuals are incredible, despite the fact that they aren’t Retina-display quality. This is a true sequel, in every sense of the word. New characters, new conflicts, an entirely new story to unfold. One of the biggest changes to the game is the skill system. In Chaos Rings and Omega characters unlocked Gene Plates that they could equip to use new skills. These Plates would fill up with new skills as they fought enemies, eventually giving them a whole bevy of skills to use that would heavily influence combat. In Chaos Rings II, characters can now equip Sopia (or souls) of the monsters that they defeat. They fill up in the same way as before, except once a specific Sopia is equipped on a character, it must be removed before being equipped by another. Further, the protagonist of the story can equip the Sopia of fallen comrades to get their unique skills and summon them into battle, similar to the Eidolons of Final Fantasy IV and the Espers of Final Fantasy VI.

Every character also starts combat with a specific element already attached to them, making them strong or weak against specific elemental attacks. This results in a lot more strategy to the combat, as it can sometimes be impossible to damage an enemy at all without Pairing attacks (both party members attack—and take hits—together) or changing your element. As Sopia skills are unlocked, characters can equip Sopia to change their starting element. This can be a life saver if you are traveling through an area filled with Blaze (fire) monsters and you start every fight with the Gale (wind) element.

The story certainly has a similar tone to the rest of the series. There’s a very fatalistic feeling to every Chaos Rings game. The world is at an end and your characters must kill innocent people to prevent a more tragic event. However, Chaos Rings II provides you with some incredible characters to lead you through this story. I will definitely play the game more than once to make different choices to see how the story plays out.

Another significant change to the game is the way you are no longer tied to a single party throughout the game. While Omega did have you switching between two supporting characters throughout the story, it was scripted and your primary hero always remained in the party. In Chaos Rings II, you can often leave different characters behind to go grind some monsters with whichever characters you choose (so long as they’re still alive, of course). While I haven’t finished the game yet, I am greatly impressed by the improvements and consider it to be a console quality combat system and storyline. I look forward to seeing the series continue for many years, as I think it’s a solid hit for Square-Enix and Media.Vision.

Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing for iOS is free for a limited time!

There is no shortage of racing games for iOS. This isn’t really surprising, considering how well accelerometer and gyroscopic controls can be tuned to make racing games more fun (unless the controls are really, really bad). When the App Store was first revealed, there were no kart racers available. Soon, though, Pangea Software ported Cro-Mag Rally from the Mac to the iPhone and iPod touch. But Cro-Mag Rally was never quite as fun to play as Mario Kart due to wonky physics and a brutally difficult A.I.

Just a couple years ago, SEGA announced the availability of Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing for nearly every platform on the planet. It was hard to justify purchasing it, though, when Mario Kart Wii was still fun to play for the whole family. When SEGA brought the title to iOS, however, I had to pick it up. Since then, my family has had quite a bit of mobile kart-racing fun thanks to its beautiful graphics and instantly familiar gameplay.

As the title says above, today (and for a limited time) SEGA made this excellent title available for free. It’s a Universal app that works on the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad quite well. I definitely recommend picking it up while this great deal lasts!

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