Genre:  Platformer

Escape Goat 2 Review: You can never have too much of a good goat

Mar 28, 2014

Released in late 2011 for the Xbox 360 and then in the summer of 2012 for the PC, Escape Goat was a quirky puzzle-platformer about both a goat imprisoned in a deadly, trapped-filled dungeon for the crime of practicing witchcraft, and an immortal, magical mouse who helps him escape. Quirky, and also very good if you like that sort of thing, although not particularly easy on the eyes: I noted in my review that the retro-style graphics were "adequate for the task but not much else."

Escape Goat 2

Escape Goat 2 is "problem solved," as they say. It's essentially the original Escape Goat all over again, but with more puzzles – more than 100 in total - and a very pleasing visual update. The Goat is back, imprisoned again along with his magic Mouse buddy and a flock of not-terribly-motivated sheep, this time deep within the Stronghold of Toragos. None have ever escaped – but you're the Escape Goat!

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Deadlings Review: Money can't buy friends

Mar 18, 2014

"Pay-to-win": it's hardly a death knell for most mobile games, as it's quite easy to find people with more money than time and a poor sense of where to spend either one.

Deadlings certainly isn't the most egregious such game, but it hardly gets a pass.

Death (as in the Grim Reaper) is unsurprisingly lonely. After seeing potential friendship in the equally unwanted zombies of the world, he tries to win their companionship by running them through a gantlet of deadly traps, platforms and obstacles at his new business, Deadlings, Inc.

The elevator pitch is something like Jetpack Joyride meets Lemmings. You play as Death, guiding different classes of endlessly running zombies through test chambers, collecting brains and making for the exit.

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Shadow Blade Review: Break out those ninja reflexes

Jan 16, 2014

The movement of a ninja needs to be tight, swift, and precise with each delivery. There's no use in sticking to the shadows and sneaking up on your enemies if they're going to be able to disarm you and discard you without a second thought. That's why any ninja-based game on a mobile touchscreen device is a gamble – it's tricky enough as it is to make a platforming game feel right on a touchscreen, so to recreate the feel of stalking your prey as a ninja is really rather difficult.

Remarkably, new ninja-based platformer Shadow Blade manages it with grace. While the controls feel a little unorthodox to begin with, they quickly prove ambitious and well considered, with flicks and gestures becoming your window into a world of great set-pieces, wall-jumping, blood-spewing, and rushes to the finish.

You play as a ninja student who is attempting to return to his master with important information. Unfortunately there are numerous obstacles and enemies standing between points A and B, and he's going to need to hack and slash his way through the lot of them. Of course, that can only be good news for us – I mean, we need some baddies to make this fun, right?

Shadow Blade wants you to feel slick. To this end, the game comes with a control scheme that's a little bit different – you can opt for the regular d-pad style controls, but you'll want to go with the gesture and swiping control set, because it feels really damn good once you properly get into it.

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My Fear and I Review: Frighteningly bad controls

Jan 7, 2014

My Fear and I is a side-scrolling puzzle-platformer about the existential travails of Sebastian, a seven-year-old lad who is very literally plagued by Fear: a large, oafish, and perpetually whiny creature that bears something of a passing resemblance to Sulley of Monsters Inc. fame. It's an interesting idea, but it ultimately falls well short of its potential thanks to a wonky control scheme that renders the game far more frustrating than fun.

Young Sebastian is confused and frightened by the world around him, and clearly finds no comfort in his parents. But he's also tired of living in fear, and so one night, ignoring the dire warnings of his Fear, he steels his resolve, grabs his trusty plunger/grapple gun, leaves his bedroom and embarks upon an adventure into the unknown.

 My Fear and I

The 2D world through which he and his Fear travel is dark and bizarre, with a sort of Tim Burton ambiance to it; but it's also almost entirely static and non-interactive. There are a few pictures hanging from the walls that can be looked at, but the vast majority of the environments are pure window dressing – a disappointment given the promise of dark secrets and manifest neuroses hidden in the many nooks, crannies, and shadows.

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Sound Ride Review: The sounds of dying

Jan 6, 2014

Sound Ride is a level-based runner that draws inspiration from the BIT.TRIP Runner series.  Its abstract and colorful world, quirky characters, and catchy, upbeat music combine to create an environment that’s a pleasure to traverse.  Unfortunately, inconsistent physics and a limited amount of gameplay cause many of those trips to be repetitive, frustrating, and less enjoyable as a whole than its individual, charming parts.

Those trips will be made as Kiwi, a bizarre bird-man scientist in hot pink track shorts.  Kiwi accidentally altered the time-space continuum and can now run faster than light—which he must do to avoid dying.  Each of Sound Ride’s current 20 stages sees Kiwi running against a throbbing, colorful backdrop that changes hues as he progresses.  Strange contraptions, like electrical towers and flashing, stilted robots, dot the otherwise sparse, but appealingly geometric landscape. 

Sound Ride

Most of Kiwi’s time in this world is spent jumping over obstacles and one-hit dangers, like spiked hurdles and hungry alligators.  Players have only two moves at their disposal: jump and double-jump (performed by jumping mid-air).  Timing is critical as many obstacles are placed at such specific distances from each other that only one type of jump will suffice.  For instance, double-jumping over an object that has another danger immediately behind it will cause you to land on that second hazard and die.  While this adds another layer of challenge and required dexterity to the game, it also results in many just-misses that will repeatedly send Kiwi back to the beginning—or halfway checkpoint—of the level when he inevitably hits an unexpected snag. 

The frequency of death in Sound Ride is multiplied by two other issues: a limited view of what’s ahead and an inconsistent physics engine.  There are many hills and cliffs scattered throughout each stage that add depth to the run, but the camera does not lead beyond Kiwi’s current position.  This means that whatever is at the crest of a hill—usually an enemy—is impossible to see until you’re right on top of it.

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Deadlings Preview: Super Zombie Boy

Dec 19, 2013

In the upcoming Deadlings from Artifex Mundi, the Grim Reaper has decided to make nice with the living world once and for all. After all, he’s always getting such a bad rep from humans, but it’s not his fault that people sometimes die! So to make it up to them, the Reaper drafts a genius plan to raise the dead and get them on their way. The result, of course, is hoards and hoards of brain-loving zombies.

I recently had some time to go hands-on with an early build of the game, and believe it or not, Deadlings actually plays out like an awesome cross between tough-as-nails platformer Super Meat Boy, and a more strategic zombie affair like Plants vs. Zombies. At the start of each level, you’ll be presented with a digital overview of the level layout, where you can scope out the location of each brain collectable and plan your most efficient path. Once you have your bearings all set, you tap on the starting point and choose which type of zombie you’d like to unleash, and which direction you’d like them to start running in.

Deadlings

At this point the game switches over to its Super Meat Boy inspiration, with your selected zombie automatically running forward in the direction you’ve chosen, and your new task being to make them jump over spikes and other obstacles by quickly tapping on the screen. If you mess up the timing, your zombie will splatter against the environment and remain a bloody mess there until you either finish the level or use a special power-up to resurrect him. But not to worry though! Each level will give you a fixed number of the undead to go through, so you have a little breathing room on your endless quest for brains.

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Clash of Puppets Review: Hanging on by a string

Dec 6, 2013

Charlie loves B-movies, and who can blame him? There's a level of camp and cheese that catapults poorly made cinema into the world of endearingly awful. So when our good ol' Charlie happens upon a drive-in boasting a classic B-movie marathon, he pulls in right away to partake in the terrible goodness. But all that flick-watchin' is serious business, and Charlie soon succumbs to sleep, whereupon he is whisked away into the very films he loves in the role of the hero. Armed with a trusty baseball bat, proximity traps, and any number of firearms, Charlie must make it through the benchmarks of less-than-mainstream film, lest he be Nightmare on Elm Street-ed (killed in his sleep) by the very cinematic villains and monsters he has come to love. Tragic.

There's a cartoony style to Clash of Puppets that blends with a mostly linear take on classic 3D platformers. Putting elements like mechanics and gameplay aside for the moment, it's important to note that this is a good-looking game, especially for its light-hearted, kid-friendly style. No, it isn't the most beautifully developed experience in the history of mobile gaming, but there are enough subtle touches, clever lighting, and immersive additions (why is fog so spooky, anyway?) that you'll probably take note.  Charlie is pretty damned cute, and as far as heroes go, he's likable.

Clash of Puppets

Really, he falls under the strong and silent type that developers seem to like so much, but there is a lot to be said for the star of the show being an everyman. Even if it isn't a major plot point and even if we are talking about a game where cute puppets beat up other cute puppets, there's something about an ordinary person thrust into extraordinary circumstances and rising to a challenge. On some level, no matter how small, we tend to see ourselves like this – to view the world of the character through our own eyes. Or maybe I'm just reading waaaay too much into it and it's little more than a silly distraction. Either way, the means to think this way is apparently something that can happen.

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Castle of Illusion Review: This platformer is quite good, and that's no illusion

Nov 25, 2013

Before we get into this, a disclaimer: This reviewer has never played Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse in its original release for the SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive. As such, no comparisons to the original game are to be found in this review, and it will only be judged on its own merits. That said, this iOS port of the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3/PC remake is good. Quite good, in fact, and perhaps surprisingly so. Platformers can be hit or miss on the iPhone, especially when they weren’t originally made with the system in mind; and when they fall, they can fall hard.

Such is not the case here, though. While not perfect, Castle of Illusion still works well in the palm of your hand, and almost feels like it’s been optimized to compensate for its shortcomings. The biggest issue we had was with the controls, which feel a bit sticky when you try to move in just about any direction except to the right. This provides a bit of a problem when you need to duck, or worse, when the left-right portions change to full-on 3D movement, which the game does seamlessly otherwise.

Castle of Illusion

Even so, the game doesn’t seem to have a standard lives system, as such games from the era of the original typically did. On occasion, including near the start, you might run into a situation where it feels like a checkpoint would be handy, but for the most part, they’re frequent and the lack of lives means you can continue trying as much as you need to in order to get it right.

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Rayman Fiesta Run Walkthrough

Nov 11, 2013

Rayman Fiesta Run is a level-based running game created by Ubisoft. You guide Rayman and his pals as they run through several food-themed levels and nab Lums that go towards freeing the ninja-like Teensies trapped on each level. Gamezebo’s quick start strategy guide will provide you with detailed images, tips, information, and hints on how to run your best race.

Rayman Fiesta Run

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Rayman Fiesta Run Review: Another delicious helping of platforming fun

Nov 8, 2013

Rayman has always been one of gaming’s true platforming greats, and not only has he managed to help define the genre of running and jumping in its early console days, but he’s also been able to perfectly adapt to every change of the times along the way. Last year’s wonderful Rayman Jungle Run was a brilliant adaptation of a platform-runner on mobile, and is easily one of my personal favorite handheld games even to this day. I think many others would also agree: which is why it’s so amazing to find that its incredible sequel, Rayman Fiesta Run, is pretty much better in every single way.

For one thing, the graphics in Rayman Fiesta Run are a huge step up from the last game, if you can even believe that, since Rayman Jungle Run already looked so good to begin with. The influence of the recently released Rayman Legends on home consoles is immediately apparent, and every character design and environment has a gorgeous painted feel to it. The namesake Fiesta theme is in full force here as well, with many levels alternating between spicy fire and chilly ice environments, and a smorgasbord of food-based elements for Rayman and friends to interact with. Prepare to be bouncing off of lime wedges and plump little sausages, swinging along vines made up of countless chili peppers, and running through a level that’s made entirely of cheese. The fiery soundtrack is just as lively as ever, and serves as the perfect background for you to dance with your disembodied feet.

Rayman Fiesta Run

The different level designs in Rayman Fiesta Run are absolutely top-notch, and the variety between them will always keep you platforming in exciting new ways. Most levels will have you running to the right and jumping over gaps as per the usual, but then other ones will throw a monkey wrench into the mix by making you run left the entire time, shrinking you down in size and pitting you against a vastly enlarged and grotesque obstacle course, and even fleeing from a boss monster that’s constantly nipping at your heels. While things start out simply enough (Rayman will always run forward automatically, and a simple tap on the screen will cause him to jump), it won’t be long before you begin to unlock new move sets that should be familiar to fans of Rayman Jungle Run, including Rayman’s punch attack, air gliding, and the ability to run up walls.

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