Order & Chaos Duels (iOS/Android) review

order-and-chaos-duels-app-iconOrder & Chaos Duels is a new iOS and Android game from Gameloft. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store and Google Play, and carries additional in-app purchases.

Order & Chaos Duels is the third entry in Gameloft’s Order & Chaos series, which has to date included a massively-multiplayer online role-playing game known as Order & Chaos Online and a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game known as Heroes of Order & Chaos. The Order & Chaos series bears a strong resemblance to Blizzard’s popular Warcraft series in terms of both art style and gameplay, and Order & Chaos Duels continues this trend. While Order & Chaos Online resembles World of Warcraft and Heroes of Order & Chaos is heavily inspired by the popular Warcraft 3 mod Defense of the Ancients (and its immensely popular recent counterparts Dota 2 and League of Legends), Order & Chaos Duels sounds very much like Blizzard’s recently-announced Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. Gameloft is well-known for putting out mobile titles that provide similar experiences to well-established franchises on PC and console, but in the case of Order & Chaos Duels, it has actually beaten Blizzard to the punch by getting its game onto the market first.

Order & Chaos Duels is a card battle game, but it doesn’t follow the usual barely-interactive mold set by popular mobile games such as Rage of Bahamut and Confrontation. Instead, its gameplay is more akin to titles such as Shadow Era from Wulven Game Studios — a game which proved popular enough on mobile to spawn a physical version.

Order & Chaos Duels

In an individual Order & Chaos Duels battle, two players face off against each other and draw cards into their hand. Each card has a mana cost to play — if the player doesn’t have enough mana to play a card, they can’t play one, but conversely if they have enough mana they may play more than one. A single card per turn may be sacrificed to add a single point to the user’s maximum mana, which replenishes fully at the start of the next turn. Some of the player characters also have special abilities that allow them to temporarily gain additional mana. (more…)

SpellRush (iOS) review

IMG_2479SpellRush is a new iOS game from Tappily. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store, and carries a single optional in-app purchase to unlock the game’s “premium” features.

SpellRush is a simple word game that gives players a grid of letters and then challenges them to find as many words as possible before time expires. Successfully making words causes their component letters to disappear, and more letters will fall from the top of the screen to take their place. Creating words worth more than 10 points rewards the player with a “star,” and collecting three stars causes a multiplier to appear on the board, allowing the player to earn significantly higher scores with careful construction of words.

The game has two modes of play — Quick Play is a single-player mode in which the player takes on a single round by themselves and tries to score as many points as possible, while Challenge Friends mode allows players to compete against their Game Center friends in one-on-one, best of five battles to see who is the best at the game. Game Center integration with the game is good, as it allows challenges to be issued from the game’s own interface rather than having to pull up the jarring, skeuomorphic “casino-style” Game Center interface. There is one odd little quirk, however — the list of Game Center friends presented to the player to issue a challenge does not appear to be organized in anything even resembling a logical order. They’re not alphabetized by first name, last name or username — and the latter is not visible. There’s no search function, either, so players hoping to challenge a specific player will have to scroll through this disorganized list until they find the person they’re looking for. It’s a relatively minor issue, but for those with a bulging friends list it is an annoyance that doesn’t need to exist.

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Taptiles Saga review

Taptiles Saga is a Facebook game from Arkadium. It’s available now for anyone to play on the social network, and is receiving regular promotion via sidebar ads in App Center.

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Taptiles Saga is essentially a three-dimensional take on mahjong solitaire, with cubic tiles stacked in a tower-like arrangement rather than a flat design with tiles stacked atop each other as in conventional mahjong solitaire. This means that the arrangement can be rotated and viewed from four different angles rather than the top-down view of regular mahjong solitaire. This would actually be a pretty original concept for a puzzle game were it not for the fact that this is now the seventh time Arkadium has used this exact game mechanic across all platforms, and the second time it has used it on Facebook. Still, in a world drowning in Bejeweled-inspired match-3 games and bubble shooters, any game that breaks from the “norm” is worthy of note, regardless of whether the developer has done it before.

Basic gameplay in Taptiles Saga requires players to match pairs of cubic tiles that bear the same symbol. Like in mahjong solitaire, tiles may only be removed if they are free to slide out of their arrangement and are not “blocked in” on two sides. As the player progresses through the game, additional types of tile start to show themselves, including dark magic blocks, which must be matched to clear chains off other blocks, and stone blocks which are unmovable except through use of a “pickaxe” powerup that costs soft currency to use.

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Transformers Legends (iOS/Android) review

IMG_2504Transformers Legends is a new iOS and Android game from Mobage. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store and Google Play, and carries additional in-app purchases.

Transformers Legends is a card-battle game, much like the previous licensed titles that Mobage has put out such as the rather poor Marvel: War of Heroes. Transformers Legends fares slightly better in the interactivity stakes than past entries in the card-battle genre, but not by much; at heart, it’s still a rather tedious, immensely repetitive experience almost totally devoid of any real sense of strategy, narrative or indeed excitement.

Like most card-battle games, Transformers Legends is split into two distinct components: a single-player “mission” mode in which the player repeatedly taps on a button to gain experience and new cards, and a multiplayer PvP mode in which the player taps on a “fight” button and hopes that their cards have higher numbers on than their opponent’s. To its credit, Transformers Legends does flesh both of these modes out slightly more than normal — the “mission” mode occasionally features rhythmic tapping on the screen to “defend” against attacks and the PvP mode’s cards do feature special abilities that automatically come into play at the appropriate time — but for the most part this game is very much business as usual. Acquire cards, upgrade them by fusing them with “trash” cards, complete missions to level up until energy runs out, fight other players until “battle cubes” run out, end session, repeat later in the day.

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Beat the Melody (iOS) review

Beat the Melody is a new iOS game from Shortbreak Studios, developed in collaboration with Wroclaw Music Academy, Poland. It’s available now as a $0.99 download from the App Store, and carries additional in-app purchases.

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Beat the Melody is a simple music game designed as a means to help its players recognize pitch and repeat short, simple musical phrases by ear. The basic gameplay mechanics are extremely simple, but applied consistently and effectively over the course of the game, gradually building into an enormously challenging experience even for skilled musicians.

Beat the Melody is essentially a memory and pattern recognition game, though unlike most other games of its type, there are no visual cues to help the player. Instead, the player is played a short musical phrase — usually from a well-known classical work — and then asked to repeat it back. This is done by tapping on the screen — further to the right if the next note is higher than the previous, further to the left if it is lower, and in the same place if it is the same note repeated. There are no set places on the screen to tap — in other words, the player doesn’t have to recognize exactly how much higher or lower a note is, just be able to distinguish the fact that it is higher or lower — and there is no need to get the rhythm exactly right. If the player taps in the wrong place, the correct note is played but with an “out of tune” effect, allowing the player to determine where they are in the phrase and pick up where they left off. Once all the notes in the phrase have been attempted, the player is given a rating between one and three musical notes according to their accuracy, and may share their score for a level on Facebook and Twitter if they so desire.

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Robot Unicorn Attack 2 (iOS) review

Robot Unicorn Attack 2 is a new release from Adult Swim and its regular collaborator PikPok. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store, and carries additional in-app purchases.

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The original Robot Unicorn Attack, which began life as a Web game and then saw numerous ports and quasi-sequels on both the Web and mobile, was one of the games that, alongside Canabalt, helped to popularize the “endless runner” genre. Marrying simple controls with challenging gameplay, the original Robot Unicorn Attack was an immensely addictive game that saw players challenging a series of randomly-generated levels in a constant attempt to better their score. The only controls were a jump button and a dash button, the latter of which could be used to break through certain obstacles.

Robot Unicorn Attack 2 hasn’t tampered with this existing formula all that much, but there are a few notable changes. Firstly, rather than randomly-generated levels, players tackle a different stage each day. There is no play-throttling mechanic, so players may challenge the level as many times as they please in a single day and, because it is the same each time, theoretically get better and better each time as they learn where the various obstacles are.

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Bubble Loop review

Bubble Loop is a new Facebook game from Royal Cactus. It’s available now for anyone to play, and is currently being advertised in the sidebar module in Facebook’s App Center.

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It’s not difficult to work out what kind of game Bubble Loop is from its rather literal title — with a name like that it’s either going to be a bubble shooter or a Zuma/Puzz Loop clone, and in this case it’s the latter. This is somewhat better than contributing to the oversaturation of genres such as Bejeweled- and Diamond Dash-style “match-3″ puzzlers and traditional bubble shooters, but it’s still an unoriginal concept at its core. That said, Bubble Loop does provide a couple of interesting twists on the usual formula that make it mildly worthy of note — but ultimately it’s still an inferior knockoff of Zuma.

For those unfamiliar with the Zuma/Puzz Loop formula, it is similar to other match-3 genres in that players shoot out colored objects and must form groups of three or more of the same color. Here, though, rather than swapping gems around on a grid or shooting bubbles at a predefined arrangement, the colored orbs here roll slowly around a predefined track on their way to dropping down a hole. If the pearls drop down the hole before the level’s objective has been completed, the player fails. If the player runs out of time, the pearls immediately rush forward and drop down the hole, failing the level if they have not completed the objective by this point. The one interesting twist on the usual formula that Bubble Loop provides is the facility to end a level early — if the player completes all of the objectives for a level and does not wish to continue playing until time expires or the pearls fall down the hole, they can simply click an “End Game” button to prematurely end the level. This is obviously not the best way to get high scores, but for those primarily playing solo and attempting to “beat” the game, it is an efficient means of making rapid progress.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Rooftop Run (iOS) review

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Rooftop Run (hereafter Rooftop Run) is a new iOS game from Nickelodeon. It’s available now as a $1.99 download from the App Store, and carries additional in-app purchases. The game displays a prominent advisory message about in-app purchases upon being run for the first time.

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Rooftop Run is, as its name suggests, another in the long line of endless runner games available on the App Store. Taking on the role of one of the four Turtles, the player must survive as long as possible against endless waves of Foot Clan ninjas while simultaneously ensuring they do not fall off the rooftops or run out of “speed” — a constantly-diminishing resource that causes the game to end if it depletes completely, but which can be replenished by collecting glowing green energy orbs scattered around the play area. Filling the speed bar completely causes the game to switch to “Turtle Time,” at which point the player can gain bonuses by fighting off incoming Foot Clan ninjas with taps on the screen in indicated positions. After Turtle Time ends, play continues, but the speed bar begins to deplete more quickly, making it more difficult to fill again.

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Foxli Rush review

Foxli Rush is a new Facebook game from NGames. It’s available now in open beta on Facebook, and is currently advertising heavily in the social network’s sidebar module.

Foxli Rush

Foxli Rush is a simple combination of citybuilder and role-playing game, in which players take on the role of either the male FoxLi or his female counterpart Peach, who is pretty much the same sprite but pink instead of red. Players must help train FoxLi or Peach by sending them on expeditions, equipping them with items, building an army for them and constructing buildings in their home town that help to power them up and provide them with income.

The flow of the game in its early stages is very heavily directed by quests, most of which hold the player’s hand a little too enthusiastically, initially pointing out every single button they need to click on and even where to place new buildings. As the player progresses, the game does start to relax a little, but the quest system is still a little stifling, railroading the player down a single path for far too long rather than allowing them to discover things for themselves — or even to present them with a choice of things to do at any one time.

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Draw Something 2 (iOS) review

IMG_2484Draw Something 2 is a new release from Zynga, currently available as both free and paid downloads for iOS and coming soon to Android. The game is featured in the New & Noteworthy section of the App Store front page, but is not an Editor’s Choice app.

OMGPOP’s Draw Something became something of a phenomenon when it was originally released, capturing the public’s imagination with its simple asynchronous gameplay and wide variety of words to guess. The game’s immense success, of course, led Zynga to acquire OMGPOP for an astonishing $180 million, after which the game gradually started to decline in popularity. A number of reasons were cited for this — firstly, people were simply getting bored with it; secondly, Zynga’s involvement had led the game to become very obviously “sponsored,” with a variety of brand names starting to show their faces in the word lists; thirdly, there were players out there who simply disliked Zynga and no longer wanted to support the game now it wasn’t the work of a plucky independent developer.

The original Draw Something’s gameplay had one big flaw in terms of gameplay: it didn’t really have a “point.” It wasn’t competitive at all, unlike many other asynchronous mobile games; there was no way to “win” or “lose” — all you could do was try and get as long a streak of correct guesses as possible when playing with a friend. There was no real reward for getting a long streak, however, just as there was no punishment for breaking one. This lack of tension and competition doubtless also played a role in the game’s gradual decline.

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