Evil Genius Online Review

Apr 1, 2014

To be blunt, Tears for Fears got it wrong. I wouldn’t want to rule the world in its current state. It’s just too much hassle. Now if I could do it in the style of a James Bond villain, well, that’s a different story. Evil Genius Online helps you do just that, assembling an army of henchmen and an array of cool gizmos fit for global domination. It’s all done with a wink, helping elevate what is otherwise a pretty average social game experience.

If that opening paragraph gave you thoughts of Gru from the first Despicable Me or the Monarch from Venture Bros., you’re on the right track. That’s if you didn’t play the original Evil Genius, the PC game released back in 2004. In any case, Evil Genius Online gives you an abandoned government silo, an ambitious assistant named Penny Foxworth and a couple of Minions to get your career as a criminal mastermind underway.

Evil Genius Online

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Hello Hero Review

Mar 28, 2014

As modern games get tougher, greyer, and grittier, we can count on Korean-made role-playing games to get cuter. Hello Hero, a free-to-play social RPG by Fincon, might be the most adorable game to exist up to this point thanks to its myriad recruitable monsters. The ability to sway baddies onto your side makes Hello Hero a fun game to settle into for a while, though character growth can be excruciatingly slow if you're not willing to pay for it.

Hello Hero

Hello Hero takes place in a monster-plagued world that's troubled by demon worship. Heroes are needed to put things right. Preferably, a lot of heroes led by you.

Your party travels across several maps, each one marked with battlefields. When a battlefield is entered, your heroes stand on the lower left side of the screen, while the bad guys stand on the upper right side (as is proper custom). The heroes and monsters then exchange blows.

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Cloud Raiders Review

Mar 12, 2014

Game Insight's Cloud Raiders: Sky Conquest is a Clash of Clans-style combat sim that takes place in the breezy world of islands floating in the sky. It feeds you a handful of diamonds then sets you free to transform your tiny village into a well-defended stronghold that can fight off pirates as well as attack other sky villages. Oh, and did we mention this takes place on floating islands?!

Your hunk of rock in the sky is where most of the action in Cloud Raiders will take place. Here you'll place buildings, train troops, manage your resources and get everything spruced up to defend against an attack. It's both a home base as well as a loot generation stronghold, so the more time you spend working on the layout and fortifications the better.

Cloud Raiders

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Bingo Rush 2 Review

Jan 13, 2014

The Earth is home to many people who are capable of wonderful, mysterious things. There are people who can fall into a meditation so deep, that they don't require food or water for days at a time. There are people who can walk amongst wolves and lions without fear.

And then there are people who are capable of playing eight Bingo cards without suffering a mental and physical breakdown. It is for these half-fey that Bingo Rush 2 exists. Everyone else – that is, anyone who plays Bingo for ten minutes at a time and is content with managing one or two cards simultaneously – will find a basic free-to-play Bingo experience.

Bingo Rush 2

There isn't a lot about Bingo Rush 2 that's different from Buffalo's original Bingo Rush. The core premise is Bingo, a game that everyone in the Western world has played at least once (until they discovered it's more fun to use the dauber on the walls, ceiling, or cat).

To oblige anyone who's been living in a cave on Mars: A letter and a number are simultaneously called out by an announcer (e.g., "B 10”). If the number and letter exist on your card, you mark it. If you get five letter-number match-ups going horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, you get to shriek "BINGO!" and wave your fanny at the chain-smoking grandmother playing next to you.

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Monster Busters Review

Jan 9, 2014

When a young boy or girl makes friends with a community of emotive gingerbread people, then you don’t need me to tell you that this is a bond that lasts for life right there. So when said gingerbread friends get kidnapped and imprisoned by some evil monsters, you would naturally do anything to free your delicious pals, right? Even if it means matching hundreds of those quirky little monsters in an ever-changing castle setting. And so sets the stage for Monster Busters, a new match-3 puzzler from PurpleKiwii.

In the game, players take control of a young hero with no mouth as they move up an enormous tower, making matches with colorful monsters, and saving legions of imprisoned gingerbread friends in the process. While Monster Busters might not bring that many new ideas to the genre as a whole, what it does have is a whole lot of heart, and a lighthearted design that makes playing through its some-odd 500 puzzles just downright fun.

Monster Busters

It won’t take you long to get accustomed to the world of Monster Busters, as the game’s basic match-3 foundation is likely something that you’ve already played before. Each of the six main monster types on the game board has their own elemental matching effect, although these don’t seem to have any influence over the actual gameplay: for instance, matching the blue monsters will sometime result in a watery splashing effect across the area. And in true Candy Crush Saga fashion, you’ll have a number of different power-ups to use at your disposal, like increased moves or toy hammers that let you smash any given monster on the game board. In addition, making matches in clusters of four and above will result in your typical vertical and horizontal bomb bonuses, etc.

The different level types are also pretty much par for the course for what you would expect from the new age of Candy Crush-style match-3 games. You’ll need to clear a handful of designated spaces that have been covered in ice. You’ll match a set number of specific monster types before the timer or your move limit runs out. And of course, you’ll make matches to drop helpless gingerbread friends to the bottom of the game board, among a few other examples. But perhaps the coolest level type you’ll come across in Monster Busters is the occasional boss fight, which places a giant green monster smack-dab in the middle of the game board and tasks you with chipping away at his health bar by making adjacent matches.

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Sugar Tales Review

Jan 7, 2014

Oy. Is it just me, or is everyone else getting tired of the Candy Crush ripoffs? Perhaps it's not fair to allow King's mega-match-three game own all things sweet, but with millions of people obsessively playing it, it's hard not to. Fair or not, it's hard not to measure all new match-threes against their super-successful predecessor, and match-three social game Sugar Tales is just the latest to suffer by the comparison.

Like so many recent match-threes, Sugar Tales embraces a colorful, sweets-related visual theme. It makes a half-hearted attempt to differentiate itself by choosing cake instead of candy and by using a game board made up of hexagonal cells instead of square ones. As some newer match-three games have begun to do, it asks you to match three by clicking on groups of static icons (so long as they're adjacent), rather than moving any of them around. It does, however, change the formula a bit by tossing a cute, googly-eyed monster into the mix.

Sugar Tales

The idea is to keep this cuddly gremlin happy by stuffing his face full of cake. You do that by moving him around the board; as long as there are three or more similar cakes next to one another, he can jump over and gobble them up. Your objective in the beginning is mainly to achieve a certain score within a set number of moves. Later on you're asked to do other things like clear away ice, crates, or angry-looking chocolate chip cookies. As with most match-three games, you're able to create power-ups by matching large groups of similar icons. Exploding croissants and rainbow “super cakes” then create explosive results, and as most of you know, the more explosive effects you achieve, the better.

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Disney Hidden Worlds Review

Dec 20, 2013

Disney has a new hidden object game (HOG), and despite some of the rumors and urban legends that still haunt the House of Mouse, it has nothing to do with finding bad words or naughty imagery in movies like Aladdin, The Lion King, or The Little Mermaid (Say, Disney – are you taking pitches for game ideas?).

No, Disney Hidden Worlds is very innocent. It also features its own unique cast of characters that guide the player through several familiar Disney worlds – an admirable addition, given Disney could have easily phoned in the game's presentation. In fact, Disney Hidden Worlds would be a perfect "starter" HOG for young people if not for some problematic bugs and an energy system that makes it difficult to play for an extended period of time without paying.

Disney Hidden Worlds

Disney Hidden Worlds stages several hidden object scenes across popular movie properties like Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Tangled. If you know your way around a hidden object game, then you should be able to jump straight into Disney Hidden Worlds. Each scenario provides a list of items to find in a crowded scene, and you simply tap or click on the object to grab it.

The faster you find items, the higher your score multiplier becomes. The higher your score at the end of a hunt, the faster you fill up stars that indicate you've mastered the scene.

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The Gate Review

Dec 20, 2013

I was disappointed to discover that in spite of all the pre-release promotion, The Gate has about as much to do with real-time strategy as Family Feud, and is in fact a straight-up collectible card battle game. But as I delved into it, I was also elated to learn that it's a really, really good CCG, quite possibly the best one I've played since I broke free of my Rage of Bahamut-habit.

"Combines Real Time Strategy and Training mechanics," the App Store entry for The Gate promises, and for a brief while I bought into it. Passing through the Gate into a hellish underworld filled with demons and wickedness, your only hope is to fight – and by fighting, your hope is sustained. As you move ever deeper into this sulphuric underworld, you'll acquire "Disciples" who you can train, upgrade, and evolve, and who will do battle on your behalf against both computer-controlled opponents and the forces of your fellow players. This is where the RTS component comes into play, as instead of simply a static, numbers-versus-numbers contest, battles are rendered entirely in 3D and filled with impressive visual effects.

The Gate

You move your characters by tapping and then dragging to where you want them to go, and unleash their skills in battle by tapping on icons at the top of the screen. To heal them, simply tap your healer – everybody has one – and then drag to the character in need. It's simple and reasonably intuitive, although the lack of a zoom control makes it difficult to select a Disciple in the heat of a crowded battle.

But it's also almost entirely unnecessary thanks to the "auto" function that will control the demons in your army with a good degree of competence. It may not be quite as effective as handling the situation personally, especially at higher levels, but the "fire and forget" convenience is handy; and if you don't like how things are going, you can turn it off and assume direct control of the action at any time.

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Brave Tales Review

Dec 18, 2013

Social games are more or less dominated by the hidden object, sim, and match-three genres, so it's nice when something other than those comes along. Brave Tales, the new fantasy RPG by Avallon Alliance and Renatus Media offers an unusual kind of gameplay (for casual games anyway) and great-looking graphics. Unfortunately, its potential is limited by its over-dependence on in-game purchases and an overall feeling of incompleteness.

What's likely to draw you to Brave Tales in the first place is its artwork. The game's characters are extremely well-designed (its red-headed female archer calls to mind Merida from Pixar's Brave) and its backgrounds are worthy of an animated series. Its orchestral music adds to these exceptional visuals, and the three together create an impressively well-made sensory package. Within this beautiful atmosphere, you're asked to take control of a party of heroes whose goal—as heroes' goals usually are—is to traverse the land banishing evil and protecting the weak.

Brave Tales

Brave Tales is a role-playing game as well as a social game, and considering it's meant for a casual audience, has a surprisingly deep amount of role-playing gameplay. You start with three heroes: Arthur the warrior, Diana the archer, and Peter the healer, all three of whom have different skills (these are determined by which skill runes you equip) and use different weapons and armor. Down the line you encounter other characters with even more skills and gear, and the look of everyone can be changed if you're willing to spend gold on new skins.

During battle, all of your heroes can be controlled individually, so you can move them and direct them to attack specific targets. Each of them has special attacks on cool-down timers that can be executed provided you have enough Mana, and each will auto-attack by default. One of the cool things about combat is that downed heroes can be resurrected as long as you have the gold to pay for it, so if you're this close to winning, one dead party member doesn't cause a frustrating loss.

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Hotel Enigma Review

Dec 16, 2013

Hotels are weird places. Whether it's a scream-worthy shower at the Bates or an extended stay at The Overlook, something strange is always bound to happen. Before you arrived at Hotel Enigma, one of the guests disappeared. Literally disappeared. Everyone is a suspect, so the hotel has been put on lockdown. Room by room you'll carry out your investigation, searching high and low for the items you need to solve the case!

At Hotel Enigma, things are a little less murderey than most fictional hotels, though don't think there's an ounce less intrigue packed behind these cherry-stained doors. You'll move between areas completing round after round of hidden object scenes as you gather clues and learn about the guests currently lurking inside the hotel's walls. Eventually you'll find out what happened to your room's previous occupant, but you can bet your polyester necktie it won't be a simple whodunit.

Hotel Enigma

Things are pretty basic in Hotel Enigma as far as gameplay goes, with a heavy emphasis on replaying scenes to find new lists of items, often switching between silhouette hunts and typical laundry list scenes. Tap items to gather them, and use the menu bar to activate hints that range from vague item locators to straight-up indicators that show you right where the item is. There's always a helpful nudge there if you need it, but most of the scenes aren't so difficult that you'll resort to spamming hint buttons.

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