Jo Wylie ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff
The app store is always brimming with new ideas and new ways to put our smart phones and tablets to use; the gaming part most of all! App games have to be innovative, exciting, and must incite players to come back to them again and again. This month, Emertainment Monthly reviews a number of games, from puzzles, to simulations, to good old fighting and racing and one game that truly boasts the title of ‘innovative.’
Developer: Amanita Design
Machinarium is a puzzle game where players point-and-click to help a small robot out of the sticky situations and adventures he finds himself in. The game follows an honest and simple plot; what starts as a desire to get home for the little protagonist swiftly moves to him having to save the city from a bomb. There’s no excessive exposition or posturing about the plot, just enough to convince the player to get through each level. They must use the robot’s surroundings to get underfoot the thugs running the scheme and ultimately put a stop to them. As the robot can only use items within arms reach, gameplay doesn’t allow the player to simply click everywhere to try and complete the puzzles. Instead, a lot of thought needs to go into solving each level.
This is not an easy game. Players may well be stumped for hours on some levels, if they want to avoid the help book, as the game recommends. Able to be reached only through a little arcade mini-game, and showing just one page per level, the help book is a handy little device that players can use to hint at the next goal, but it doesn’t take the fun out of the game.
Machinarium can keep players busy for hours, and the hand-drawn art and cute sound effects only add to the experience. Players who aren’t fans of point-and-click puzzle games aren’t going to have their whole opinions switched, and Machinarium may prove too hard for some, but it’s still a fun game that will have players coming back for more with each level, no matter the difficulty. Any fans of puzzle games are going to fall in love with Machinarium, a beautiful and fun upgrade to the point-and-click puzzle game.
Batman: Arkham Origins
Developer: Warner Bros.
With the wildly anticipated Batman: Arkham Origins newly on the shelves, the App store version has swung to the top of the charts. Fans will soon become disillusioned, however, as they are most certainly getting what they are paying for.
This version follows the same plot as the console game, but strips it of everything but the fighting. This makes the app nothing more than an unoriginal fighting game. Batman is pitched against an array of thugs, each harder to beat than the last, until he faces one of the nine main assassins. Once each of the assassins is beaten, their boss comes forward – it’s a boring take on the old form of game leveling – thug, boss, thug, boss, main boss.
The actual gameplay is simple button-mashing, with occasional quick time event for special attacks. It’s not all terrible, admittedly; as the player works through the game, the options available for “special moves” do widen, allowing for slightly more interesting fight scenes. Perhaps if these fights were only a small part of the game, the tedium wouldn’t be too bad, but as the only form of gameplay, they swiftly become boring, and the high difficulty curve doesn’t make the game more interesting so much as it does more frustrating. The game may be saved, at least a little, in the eyes of fans with the high quality graphics and interesting character designs expected of this franchise, but in truth it doesn’t expand on the console game at all, making it worthless to fans and boring to first time players. Although some may enjoy the little snatches of character and setting, this app is ultimately no substitute for the console version of Batman: Arkham Origins.
Repetitive and superfluous, this app gives little to the Batman franchise that doesn’t exist elsewhere, and does so through tedious fight scenes button-mashing.
Developer: Backflip Studios
Theme park simulators aren’t a new game type; the current generation of simulation gamers being brought up on Zoo-tycoon, rollercoaster-tycoon, and other such games. To these players, Dragonvale is going to hold no surprises as they are handed a limited plot of land and a menu of buildings and attractions to place upon it. The only new things to enjoy in Dragonvale are, as the name would suggest, the dragons; an array of species for you to showcase to park visitors. The unimaginative model – grow dragons, show dragons, get money, buy food, grow dragons – doesn’t make Dragonvale unplayable, however; far from it. Dragonvale doesn’t masquerade as an exciting game. With most processes taking a long time to complete, players are encouraged to check in, set up the comings and goings of their park, and then leave for another few hours. Although some players might become frustrated with not being able to play for hours on end, most will be satisfied with the balance Dragonvale manages to strike – the game entices players back to keep an eye on their park, but doesn’t demand hours of time with each load, perfect for casual gamers. The cutesy, cartoony aesthetic fits well with the child-like game design, and although this could estrange some players, for the most part it simply adds to the game’s unity.
Engaging but undemanding, this game has no secrets about what it is, and doesn’t try to be any more. Simply and fun, Dragonvale is recommended for casual gamers who like to check in on games every now and again.
CSR Classics is a new version of Naturalmotion’s previous game, CSR racing, and stands as a very similar system, just with ‘classic’ cars. Following the common model of racing games, players must race against increasingly difficult opponents, upgrade and customize their cars, and move up in the ranks of racers. However, CSR Classics (and its predecessor) ignores one of the important parts of racing games – the actual racing. Instead, the app places players’ cars on a short drag strip, and their only input is to rev the engine and then shift up when prompted.
This takes a lot of the fun out of the game, the only remaining part of gameplay being when players buy and upgrade classic cars. In this, the game gives players good-looking cars and great graphics, and does have a small amount of excitement. Even this is swiftly killed, however, by CSR Classics grinding players out if they are unwilling to pay real money. The game very quickly becomes too hard to win with the upgrades players can earn in-game. Unless players want to annoy Facebook friends or get out their credit card, they are left grinding constantly on low-level races. This system becomes boring and tedious, especially with the game constantly offering you “limited time” offers for parts you have no chance of affording without paying real money. CSR Classics may advertise as a free game, but all you get for free is an hour or two of gameplay before anything more is either impossibly hard or tediously easy.
Unimaginative, and having taken the racing out of the racing game, CSR Classics won’t give you much without demanding most of your money, and even then wont have you putting anything off for ‘just one more race.’
It’s no secret that mobile gaming can be a less than inspiring platform, the small screen and limited processing power damaging game developer’s chances at creating something truly innovative. Simogo, however, would directly challenge that assertion. In Device 6, they have created a game that draws players along its paths in completely new and exciting ways. Marrying the novel and game genres, Device 6 is at heart a mystery novel that starts with plain text and a few sound affects, but swiftly turns most conceptions upside-down – literally! Players turn and tilt their device, following flows of text that become the corridors through which the protagonist, Anna, is traveling. Players must pick up context clues, from the text and the pockets of images scattered through it, so that when Anna reaches a puzzle or locked door the player can interact with it and enter the codes.
Early levels in Device 6 might have players gnawing at their Iphones, the clues not revealing themselves as easily was desired, but as the game progresses and the player begins to become more literate in the type of clue to look for, the pace picks up perfectly, reaching an exciting climax in the final two chapters. Although here, gameplay difficulty plateaus somewhat, players will not be left wanting, become embroiled in the plot of the mystery story.
Device 6 uses a number of techniques that allow for an intense level of immersion, only before seen in the likes of The Nightjar or Limbo. If anything, the only complaint is that the game can be completed in just a few hours – and more than likely, you will want to keep playing until you’re done, making it a one-day game.
Device 6 is highly recommended for anyone who is a fan of novels, mystery, and puzzle game-play.