Monday, May 19, 2014

Indie Game Review 3x: Red Energy / Tiny Runners / Tap Master

   I've never been lazier than ever so I'm back with THREE game reviews in this very first TRIPLE edition of Indie Game Reviews, which from now on will be dubbed as:

Indie Game Review 3x 

   After my last review, I had another eager developer ask me if I can review the game "Red Energy", and I saw another post on Reddit asking people to check out the multiplayer online-only "Tiny Runners", along with a fairly fun game called "Tap Master: Mondrian", which of course can all be found on the Google Play Store. I'm very excited to get to the reviews for each game as I've spent more than five hours with each game.

Red Energy:

Get used to these colors!

Disclaimer: Description taken directly from Google Play Store page for Red Energy

Red energy is tps game with with elements of puzzle game. The game is heavily inspired by PC game called Kumoon. Your task is to collect the red power falling out of the red blocks using a minimum number of shots. You can also push the white blocks to topple the red. The first shot you can give with any weapon without losing energy, the next will cost you a lot.


   I've always been attracted to puzzle games and while I haven't played many puzzle games on mobile devices, this game is what I'd describe as very unique. As the game description and instructions in the game tell you, the objective of this game is simple: shoot or otherwise knock down the towers of red blocks and collect the red energy. You want to knock everything down with as few shots as possible which you can either use your pistol, shotgun, bazooka, or player's body can do in an assortment of combinations. You also get a free shot with either pistol or shotgun as your first move, so make sure to aim wisely and try to break it up the best way you can on that first shot. I really enjoyed coming up with different patterns and approaches when it came to tackling each (mostly) unique stage. Some of the stages started to feel boring and repetitive, but even so I made sure to trudge my way through it until the very end and if I wasn't completely satisfied with how a stage went and my score was low, I'd hit the replay button and try another way until I could perfect everything from angle, each weapon, and every domino effect I could cause by hitting just the right spot. Of course, you need to be careful to make sure that your tiny round guy doesn't touch any red blocks because it will throw you so deep in the negatives that you might as well restart right away. 

Visual & Sound Design:

   The game has a very voxel feel to it with its nearly free-range 3D arena that is full of red, grays, and whites. The camera works well and you really feel the depth of how large the area is with the massive towers and giant balls (heh). Of course, the game has a very rudimentary design which I think works in its favor.. to a point. Even though the stages felt huge and I had freedom to go pretty much anywhere I want.. I just felt like things were a bit too simplistic. I don't know if the weapons should really be a pistol, shotgun and bazooka because while the pistol shoots on shot and the shotgun shoots a spread of shots, they really didn't feel like how weapons like that should react.. and the bazooka only shot "more" than what the shotgun did and it wasn't one large, singular shot. Of course, that is just nitpicking. Also, I love the music. Thank you for updating it when the percentage bar for stage progression was added.


    This game is amazing when it works right, but boy did I run into some serious bugs. I've played two different versions of this game and both versions had me having to restart stages because while I knocked every block down, collected every bit of red energy and everything that the rules of the game state, I'd have to restart a stage because it would not progress me to the next one. Sometimes I have to press the button to shoot several times before anything is fired, but that was a mild annoyance if anything. I've been communicating with the developer of this game and I'm certain that the bug of stage progression will be fixed.

Final Summary: 

   Even with all of my little complaints about how the game handles and this and that, this game IS fun. It does take a while to really find your groove with playing it so when you first dive in you might be a little put off with how you roam around and all that, but just give it a chance. You'll grow to like the way it plays, hopefully love the graphics and the music, and hopefully really enjoy yourself when playing this game. I will definitely be checking out the next update.

Tiny Runners:


Feel the rush! The most fast paced, addicting 3D realtime multiplayer racing game is here!
Tiny Runners: multiplayer race is a quick 3D realtime multiplayer racing game where you race against 3 other real players and race with friends. Run, jump and battle using coolest weapons and funnest power ups, are you ready to be join the race?


   In Almond Play's Tiny Runners you play one of four racers in a rush to the end using whatever possible way, whether it is simply running, jumping, ducking, or using one of the various weapons or defenses that are available at your disposal. It is a little bit glitchy, especially if you're connected to other players that have a lag but I don't really think that is in the hands of the developer to control (unless the netcode is better optimized). The game is very simple with the using swipes and taps to control your character, it can get heated with other skilled players and can be somewhat unrewarding if you're not really good at the game or matched up against someone who is better than you. The game is very simple, it can get heated with other skilled players and can be somewhat unrewarding if you're not really good at the game or matched up against someone who is better than you. I always personally got joy out of dropping bombs and time-bombs to those challenging me. Once you've familiarized yourself with the terrain of the different stage types it essentially becomes predictable and you'll easily be able to take advantage of other's lack of familiarity -- this is NOT a complaint but rather I'd say it's a fair competitive advantage that you can get from playing any other platforming game.

Visual & Sound Design:

   The design of this game is very cute and has a very Super Mario feel to it, which I simply love. The design of the characters and power-ups really feel polished and you can tell the developers put a lot of thought and time into these designs. The stages are colorful and have a very distinctive feel between the different stages and never feel like assets were simply copied and pasted from one stage to another. I personally found the Desert and Space stages to be the best designed stages ESPECIALLY with the jump pads that can be found on the Space stage...if we play sometime, let's go a few rounds on the space stage! Unfortunately I can't say much about the audio design as the May 16th, 2014 update has nearly completely broken sound for me on the four devices I tested it out on (Galaxy Nexus, Moto X, Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0, and Samsung Galaxy S5). This makes it incredibly difficult to know when rockets are coming towards you, knowing when time bombs are going to blow up, and hearing your opponents catching up to you and you might as well just play the game with the sound off!


   Wow. When the game runs perfectly, it's smooth except when it lags.. but there were more times than I could count off the top of my head in the five hours I played this game where I kept running into glitches, wall clipping, and other annoyances. I recorded some of my gameplay to just show you how bad it can get. See for yourself:

Final Summary: 

    If you want a fun, competitive platformer-racing game, then Tiny Racers is definitely something you need to check out. It is not perfectly, but it is one of the more polished games I've ever encountered on the Play Store. Of course that being said, I did spend most of the time I wanted to play the game waiting in an empty game lobby trying to find three other players to get a race going. The only way I could get around this was to invite a friend, but even with over 30 people in my Friends List, I still couldn't play. I most definitely think there needs to be an offline option or racing against CPU... something! And of course, while I did have fun playing this game I think I'll wait for the player base to grow before revisiting this game (and maybe a new stage type or two).

Tap Master: Mondrian:

Laugh at my pitiful score.

Tap Master: Mondrian is a simple game inspired by Piet Mondrian's minimalist art style, where your goal is to tap only the pieces that match the color and/or shape dictated by the rule. Sounds easy, right? Then try it, you will be surprised as you reach higher levels and feel challenged! Tap Master: Mondrian, following the minimalist style, was designed to be simple, yet in a fun way to overcome challenges and spend time wherever you are!


   Tap Master is a simply casual game that involves pieces of various shapes and colors scrolling (usually) from top to bottom and it is your job to follow the instructions at the top of the screen to press the right shape, color, or both as they descend to the bottom while increasing in speed as you "level up". There isn't really anything complicated by this game style which I think actually makes it a fun yet challenging game. As you progress, you'll see from time to time flashing star pieces among the regular game pieces that enable different attributes that change the way you play the game. Will you get a free mistake? Will the game slow down? Will you give you the pieces you need or will the pieces come from the bottom? The best way I'd describe this game is like a mix between Konami's reflec beat, osu! and Tetris. After playing a few rounds, unlocking a few different challenges, I realized I was really into the game. It can be infuriating when you mess up by either tapping the wrong piece or missing the correct piece altogether. Now, I've played some puzzle-like games, or "casual" games where when you lose it is either because the game is really cheap and tries to trick you or you lose because the game mechanics just really suck, but when you lose a round of Tap Master there is only one thing you can blame and that thing is YOU. Yes, every time I messed up and lost it was always my fault and I can't really blame anyone else but me. When you get a high score you really get a rush of excitement and when you lose at a high score you get a sense of enjoyment.

Visual & Sound Design:

   I've always appreciated the "Mondrian" style that was mastered by Piet Mondrian (seriously, click the link) in the first half of the 20th century that uses rudimentary angles, black lines, and primary colors in rectangular shapes, so I can equally state that I appreciate the design choices that the developer took with this game. You can really see the love the developer placed in the graphical design and it's rare for a game to really pop out like this. Yes, some might consider for primary colors to be elementary and not really creative but I say it's the other way around: the fact that this game takes an approach that I don't see with any other game on the Play Store and tries something a little bit different earns some respect in my book. Plus, the way the menus pop-up and bounce give it a smooth coat of sweetness over everything else in the game.

Except for a few... they're all art apps!
The single track that plays in the background during gameplay has a nice build up that increases in intensity as your game speeds up and increases in difficulty. The choice of electronic piece, which I am going to assume is an original piece, really compliments the classical background. It sets the mood, it gets your blood rushing and keeps the game exciting while you crave more and more of the song.


I didn't encounter any bugs of any sort while I was playing, but if you know of any let me know. 

Final Summary: 

   This is a very well made game and to say it isn't would be a lie. There are no in-app purchases (except to remove ads, and please support the developer!), there are no over complicated menus and while it would have been nice to have Google Play Games integrated into the game, it really doesn't take away anything from enjoying the game. If you like games are easy to get into that pop with color that also gets the adrenaline pumping with difficulty that doesn't play around, definitely check this game out. 

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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Soldier Bird Rush: Flappy Bird... that Rushes... OK?

Feels familiar for some reason... hmmm..

Flappy Bird will probably go down as one of the weirdest mobile game phenomenon of the first half of 2014 and while I am not a huge fan of the game, there have been some variations of the original Helicopter game that I do like such as the Jumpy Bird stage in Crisp Bacon. The game is/was so popular that you can go to Play Store, type in "Flappy Bird", and easily see over 200 clones of the popular yet absent game. Before I go into the review of this game only at request I have this to say to developers: STOP MAKING FLAPPY BIRD CLONES, THEY ALL SUCK. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM SUCK. I don't even have to play all of them to know that each of them such. Seriously, cut it out already! That being said, I intend on giving a real honest review of Soldier Bird Rush available on Google Play.

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   The great things about this Flappy Bird clone, and most of the clones, is that the game feels a lot like Flappy Bird: you tap the screen at different intervals to prevent from hitting an obstacle or the ground and try to get as high score as possible. Solider Bird Rush replaces the Super Mario-like obstacles with heavy artillery such as tanks that shoot multiple rounds, airplanes that drop bombs on you and planes that shoot their mini-guns at you in an attempt to take down your Armed Forces Feathered Commando. Not only do you have to tap the screen to avoid these dangers, but you can also slide to the front to avoid being bombed on but the difference doesn't really change the whole dynamic of the game as you immediately snap back to your previous position. Thankfully the hit-box detection has been greatly improved over the original Flappy Bird but even with all the changes to the style and ways of avoiding death doesn't really make up for the boring gameplay. The AI is horribly predicable so easy that my three-year old could probably figure it out by just playing a few rounds of this game. Now, it's not that I don't appreciate the developers attempt but the only reason I can even fathom for making a clone of an already horrible game was that this was some sort of practice. I don't expect every game to be a masterpiece, because frankly few are, but this chapter into the great Flappy Bird story is easily forgettable... but if I ever have to play another version of Flappy Bird I think I may literally kill myself. 

Oh... exciting! Right??

Visual and Sound Design:

   Grey, brown, green and dull! Even so, it's still an improvement in my book over the Super Mario ripoff design that the original game brought out. Your winged hero is on the... defense? Offense? No-fense? The overall theme doesn't really make sense. As for the enemy design, these aren't really that bad. Are they crudely drawn? Sure. Could I do better? Probably not, but if you're going to make a clone of a badly designed game, then you might as well keep up with the theme of bad designs. Of course, I could be thankful that they aren't worse and when you're an indie developer I don't expect you to have an art degree or be a master designer... but I think it would have been better finding some public domain or license-free art out there and just sticking it in. No, the biggest offender is when you press the Pin icon it brings up a monstrosity of memes, ads, and cheap merchandise: ew. So the graphics suck, so what? One thing I really did like about the game is the soundtrack and sound effects. The A-Team-esque drum roll music really sets the tone of the game like you're really going into battle (which you're not), and the sound effects from cannons firing, bombs dropping, explosions exploding, and the sound of my flapping are as well as they can be in a game this badly designed.

Final Decision:

   If you like Flappy Bird, you'll be surprised that this game is actually a better version of Flappy Bird... but if you hate Flappy Bird OR have a sensible taste in gaming please avoid this and every game like it. Please. Also to the developer, if you read this I am sorry that I was harsh on this game but really it stinks and please please please make something more original next time instead of setting a low bar for yourself from copying that very bad game. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Zombie Snail - This Game Snails Good in it keeps coming back for more!
  After my first two published reviews here on my blog, I decided I wanted to keep doing this but only if I continue to review small indie games and well what smaller indie is Jeffto's Zombie Snail? A self-described "casual" game, I was drawn into this game based on the title alone and while the whole zombie thing has been beaten to death in books, films, television shows, comics, games, and more ... I am really up for anything with the word "zombie" in it (except The Walking Dead television series... ugggghhhh). Plus, I haven't really played many games that involved a snail for a main character.

The infection has taken over the world, not much was left untouched. Even you, the lowly snail, has been infected. You can still function with the sliver of consciousness unaffected by the disease, but the desire for brains grows quickly. There is a strong scent of fresh brains down in the sewers, you must reach it.Race down the sewage tunnels to reach the brains while avoiding the hazardous chemicals leaking from the overworld. The darkness in the underground induce many hallucinations to your diseased brain, keep your light source lit or be consumed by the shadows. As you progress through the tunnel, you will gain experience and unlock many upgrades and power-ups that makes the journey easier.

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   While this game may not be utilizing he most unique gameplay mechanic, I find the game's difficulty to be sufficient as your barrow down the sewer corridor, dodging hazards, avoiding the grim reaper and trying to escape from the increasingly darkening depths of poo city. Even though you're playing as a snail, I couldn't even imagine how boring the game would be if you were going as slow as a snail! The game is pleasantly challenging when the controls don't shoot you from one side to another randomly (a rare occurrence) and if you try to use anything but the motion controls, well, you're pretty much screwed with the on-screen buttons - which probably reduced my reaction and response times to pathetic levels. One of the other things that I felt this game does well is the unlockable items to help you stave off hazards and make it easier to keep things lit up, not that the dark is really difficult to navigate through.. but the Grim Reaper will show up and obstruct your view if you try to go too long without using a match/lantern/flashlight. I was challenged on 180 mode, but once I unlocked 270 mode I realized that I wasn't as good as I thought and as of this writing, I'm still trying to climb up the leaderboards on Never Ending Mode. Not too easy, but not too hard... unless of course you really want to rack up those levels and coins; plus the secret achievements are going to keep me playing until I unlock them all. 

A game I will be playing for the next couple of weeks... 

Visual Design:

   The coolest thing about this game is the circular theme that is used for both the select screen and the screen you'll be staring at the most: the actual gameplay. When I first started playing it felt like I was falling down like in an old Looney Toon-style cartoon, but after getting figuring out the orientation of how it was presented I was racing down the colorfully decorated, yet dark sewers. The lighting is "just OK" until you get all of the upgrades for your light source, but when everything is lit up the blues, pinks, oranges and greens are shown in their full color beauty which really compliment the awesome pixel-art snail. Big plus for graphic design.

Taking the family on vacation!

Sound Design:

   No music? I'm okay with this! The dripping sound as you cross the threshold of each level actually helped me keep track of how far I've gotten into the sewers without having to look at the counter, and the loud sounds of the hazards only make me want to avoid them even more. The only suggestion I have regarding the sound design of this game is that when the Grim Reaper shows up in the dark, maybe something macabre can play in the background until you flick the light back on? I would like that.

Final Decision:
   So, do I like this game? Absolutely. Is it perfect? No, it is not... but I think it's a great first game for Jeffto and while there are no zombies in the game, each time I die I keep coming back for more. This game is well polished, I haven't seen any bugs (yet), and while there is limited content in this game and no way of disabling the flashlight after you upgraded so you can go back to the initial challenge at the beginning, I will keep playing this game until I've mastered it all. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Crisp Bacon: Run Pig Run - Fun Farty Gameplay

You can trust the weasel... trust me!

After posting my review to my blog for ShadowCreep, the developer SnottyApps reached out to me and asked if I could review their snotty game "Crisp Bacon: Run Pig Run". The developer sounded sincere enough so I figured, "Why not?!" and decided to give this game a run.

2D side-scroller running game with parkour & porkour gameplay elements, cute 2D graphics, silly humor and flatulent atmosphere. Take control of our hyperactive hero called Crisp Bacon to run, jump, crawl, climb, roll and fart through challenging levels in a quest to find his little brother. Use your reaction, skill and highly responsive controls to dodge away from spiky hedgehogs, sharp saw blades and rolling trees. Butt-stomp annoying bees or break wind to stop them from chasing you. Use flatulence amplifiers like beer and chili peppers wisely to gain speed and increase air control. Don’t forget to collect acorns, since squirrel mob doesn't take wild pigs, trampling their forest, lightly.

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Sorry SnottApps, I am the champ right now!

   Right from the title screen we are greeted with a cute set of characters that consist of the protagonist and his enemies (and a shady weasel who gives you free acorns that really have no purpose other than an achievement). After going through the exposition screens (that run for just a little too long), you're immediately dropped into the first stage with instructions on what buttons do what and how much gas a drink or a pepper can produce out of your piggy butt. I like the ability to double jump, but everything in the main ten stages just seem so conveniently placed, like everything is too perfect... not enough chaos. I was able to easily breeze through the ten stages in under 20 minutes... even with hardcore mode enabled. As I was playing through these stages I really did feel like the game was just too easy because even if you FAILED a stage but had enough acorns, you're welcome to move on to the next stage.. Where is the punishment? I know that the developer is always working on the game, but man, where is the challenge if I can just pass to the next stage without even trying? I was going to write this game off as a fun time waster that didn't really push the player to try, but as I continued to play around with the mostly responsive controls (more on that later), the annoying vibration your phones does when you get hit or die (which after an hour I finally looked for the option to turn it off), and the repetitive but not-too-annoying background music, but after I breezed through the game, going back and replaying the first ten stages over and over again (hence why I'm as of this writing the leader-board champ for the three time challenges) because I thought you'd need a butt-load of acorns to progress to each stage (which I was wrong), I finally came to realize this whole time that those first stages were just training for the challenge stages. 

In less than one second, you go from this... this. 
   The challenge stages are very reminiscent of Flappy Bird in that are you given one try and one try only in trying to either stomp your butt on bees, grab acorn, and use chili peppers to fart blast your way to the end in the fast time. Even though once you've "mastered" the controls, getting a high score is not exactly the easiest thing... hell, I only got a score higher than 14 on most of these by memorizing where things were and by that point I may have died over 200 times! I know that in my head as I was playing this game I thought it was a cute, yet easy game.. but now I want to go back and try to beat my score and the scores of others in these three challenges. I love the challenge stages, even if the controls aren't always working, but I really wish there was difficult content in the rest of the game.. the first ten stages shouldn't serve as a guide for taking on those last three stages but unfortunately you're forced to go through the beginning just to reach the last few stages and really that makes the whole thing pointless. Either give us a challenge or don't give us a challenge, don't force the player to endure boredom just to get to the fun stuff because you're going to give the wrong impression with your game. Also, the acorns: when is the Acorn store coming? Having features as "Coming Soon" can work when you have an exciting product but when your game screams, "Hey, the game isn't done!" , it gives off the impression that you're trying too hard. Please, don't try to hard.

Is this game fun? Sure! Is it hard? Only to a point, but I would recommend the game since it tries to do a few things differently but really doesn't strive to be more than a time waster.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

ShadowCreep - Archery Shooter: a Broken Game with Broken Aim

The title screen. It gets the job done, I guess.

  From time to time, I like to check out new games from independent developers that appears on the Google Play store and Apple's iTunes. Sure, I might play a big studio title if it interests me, but generally I don't have the time. However, I recently saw this post on Reddit from a developer of a new game that sounded very promising..

Beware, not for sensitive souls! Do you have what it takes to take more than one of them with you? Become Shade in this 2D archery shooter. The goal is simple: equipped with your bow and infinite arrows, you have to shoot down as many enemies as possible before they take you down. ShadowCreep is a dynamic and difficult game. You will not be shooting apples but actual monsters who want to destroy you. They are coming at you fast and you will need to master your skills with a bow and arrow in order to survive.

Five star reviews are truthful, right?
  With this many five star reviews, how can this game not be great? Well, it's not. Now, that doesn't mean that the game is the worst thing ever because it isn't that either, but there are many flaws that left me wanting more. I like several things about the game: I like the overall design of the game such as the colors, the clouds, the rooftop, the sprites of both the player, the "birds" (I call them Sharkravens), and the music. While the design feels very much like a flash game I think the style really matches what other developers are doing with games such as Cut the Rope, Angry Birds, and Flappy Bird. The sprites, while struggling with the animation of both play and enemies, have a very simple yet distinctive look that I haven't really seen in other games I've played but I feel that they really don't fit with the bright blue sky and puffy clouds.. they feel like they would fit more with a darker background since the player archer is hooded in black and fighting weird robotic flying sharks.. maybe a later update can have different time of day settings. The developer thankfully has already stated in the Reddit thread (that I linked to up top) that he is going to fix the animations to make them smoother and hopefully he'll take this suggestion of mine.
Simple enough, right?
The biggest flaws of this game are horrible aim and hit box detection. I understand that games shouldn't be easy because where is the fun in that, but I had so much difficulty aiming for the right shot that it became downright infuriating! I would line up a shot perfect for the next set up Sharkravens and right as I'm about to shoot, the aim changes on it's own. I had this same problem happen on my Moto X, my Galaxy Nexus, and even on a Galaxy Tab 2! Regarding the hit detection.. just look at this:

I mean, really? 

Fix this. This. This. This. This. THIS. 

No, I do not want to share to Facebook. Why can't I share to G+, Twitter, or other methods?

  To sum it all up, the controls are bad, achievements do not work and the only option to share your score or the game is to Facebook? I like the music, like the art design but the inaccuracy of aiming is just too much of a flaw to ignore. I don't know who those five star reviewers are, but it's obvious they're reviewing a different game that I've spent several hours on. Please developer, fix these issues and you might turn an alright-game with bad controls into a great game that doesn't have forced difficulty.

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