Brave Frontier Review: Simple but satisfying

Mar 17, 2014

There’s something to be said for the classics. Actually, there’s a lot to be said for them, or they wouldn’t get to be classics in the first place. Brave Frontier definitely has its sights set on giving mobile gamers nostalgic feelings of the JRPGs of bygone days, with some collectible card game bits sprinkled in for good measure. That’s a sound strategy, and the result is fun enough to be worth the free download.

Every good RPG needs a land to save, and in the case of Brave Frontier, it’s called Grand Gaia. This magical locale is home to hidden power for those who can vanquish its strange creatures, but it’s been sealed off by some fallen gods.

Brave Frontier

That’s where you come in. As a Summoner with immense promise, you’ve been granted access to Grand Gaia via Lucius’ Gate. With a guide named Tilith to introduce you to core concepts like summoning units, fusing them together to make them more powerful, and leading them into combat, it doesn’t take long to get started on setting things right.

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Bridge Constructor Review: London Bridge is falling down AND IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT

Mar 14, 2014

Bridge Constructor by HeadUp Games is a bridge-building mobile game that lets you exercise your physics prowess. It also offers a strong, important reminder: Not everyone is cut out for building bridges. It's OK for a bridge to fall apart on your screen, but in real life, smiling sheepishly and shrugging while cars plummet into ravines simply isn't acceptable.

So, if you don't know anything about engineering, is it still worth giving Bridge Constructor a go? Sure it is. The game challenges you to build serviceable bridges. There's no need for them to pass any hoity-toity government inspections. If the whole shebang collapses but the cars driving across manage to outrun the destruction, the point's still yours. No jail time!

Bridge Constructor

Each level of Bridge Constructor offers up a gap that must be bridged (it turns out an earthquake has shaken all the world's previous bridges to dust). Your supplies include concrete gates, girders, cables, and plain old wood. 

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Glorkian Warrior: Trials of Glork Review: Reinventing Galaga

Mar 13, 2014

Like most 30-somethings with a love for video games, I have fond memories of the days when arcades reigned supreme. And when I was a kid playing games at my local pizzeria (it sounds clichéd, but it’s true!), I put an embarrassing number of quarters in the ol’ Galaga machine.

My story, I have to assume, is not unique. If I were to speculate, I’d say that Miles Tilmann (aka Pixeljam) and James Kochalka would have very similar stories to tell. After all, they teamed up to make Glorkian Warrior: Trials of Glork -- a game that loves Galaga just as much as I do.

Glorkian Warrior

Like Galaga, players of Glorkian Warrior control a character at the bottom of the screen that navigates back and forth to shoot hordes of enemies above. Instead of a spaceship, though, you’ll be playing as the titular Glorkian Warrior – a three-eyed alien dweeb with little self-confidence and a heavily weaponized backpack.

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The Tribez & Castlez Review: History repeating

Mar 13, 2014

A couple of years ago, Russian game publisher Game Insight brought us the prehistoric village-builder The Tribez. In it, we took on the role of an adventurous scientist who helps a primitive tribe rebuild their village. In the new sequel to that game, The Tribez and Castlez, we once again don the scientist's lab coat, this time setting our sights on saving a medieval kingdom. Unfortunately, that change in scope is more or less the only way to differentiate the two games, which means Tribez veterans have little in the way of new experiences to enjoy in the sequel.

The Tribez and Castlez begins with the first game's mad scientist (at least I think it's him; he seems to have grown some hair since then) and his pretty tribal sidekick Aurora touching down in the middle of a medieval kingdom. Actually, they don't just touch down—they crash land Dorothy-in-Oz-like on top of a magical crystal. In one way, this helps the Prince of the realm since it sends a marauding army of greenskins running. In another, it causes problems for him since he then needs a significant portion of his kingdom rebuilt.

The Tribez & Castlez

Being magically transformed from a scientist to a mage, you set out to help the Prince and his subjects by building structures, clearing land and collecting resources. This is where, if you've played The Tribez, deja vu is likely to set in. 

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Cloud Raiders Review: Clash of Sky Pirates

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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Block Fortress: War Review: A merciless mobile RTS

Mar 11, 2014

Block Fortress: War is a real-time strategy (RTS) game from Foursaken Media. It's also hard. Damned hard.

Nobody really expects a real-time strategy title to be as easy-going as a walk through a grove of block-shaped trees. We're talking about war, after all. People die in wars. Zombies explode in wars. Nevertheless, casual RTS fans will probably balk at Block Fortress: War's steep learning curve. Even genre veterans may quickly realize they've met their match.

Block Fortress: War takes place in the far-flung future. Space has been colonized, and the universe is very square. That's not to say it's lame: it's literally made out of cubes. 

Block Fortress: War

As humanity zips around the universe, it logs more face time with aliens. Many of these critters are hostile and wish for our destruction. What do we do with angry aliens? We go to war with them, of course. 

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Block Legend Review: Not quite legendary

Mar 11, 2014

I've not felt the draw of a Puzzle Quest game since the first one. The novelty of RPG mechanics met with match-three gameplay wore out for me quickly as I realized even the developers behind them weren't sure what made those games great.

Now I have Block Legend. It's full of obligatory pixel art and chiptunes and the super deformed character design you expect from an indie dev. What it's not is a Puzzle Quest game -- it's not even a match-three game. It is, however, a blend of puzzle and turn-based RPG.

Block Legend

Your character (more on those later) moves from left to right automatically, running into enemies while you match blocks below, a la 10000000. Rather than switching blocks about to match, any number of identical tiles can match at once. 

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The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot Review: A great game hobbled by its dependence on player content

Mar 7, 2014

The allure of loot is something that's hard to deny.

Some argue the loot-based formula, popularized by action-RPGs like Diablo, aren't actually "fun," and instead wage psychological warfare against players to make them feel like tweaking numbers is actually enjoyable. The same is often said of free-to-play games. When abused, the "pay-if-you-want" model is nothing but a shell to trick you into spending more money on a system that's designed to make you do it all over again, never really letting you play a "game" along the way.

The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot is a loot-based action-RPG in the style of Diablo. It's also a free-to-play game with not just a few resemblances to EA's much-maligned Dungeon Keeper reboot. Immediately the corporate cards seem stacked against any actual "game" to be found in this blend of genres.

The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot

It's mental tug-of-war; I want this here, but I don't want to spend money. Is this actually fun, or is it just gratuitously satisfying? The same push-and-pull defines Mighty Quest on a design level.

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If... Review: Emotional edutainment

Mar 7, 2014

Obvious moves aren’t that interesting. So when it came to light that EA founder Trip Hawkins had a new startup working on a game to teach kids social and emotional learning (SEL), it raised some eyebrows. Well, mine anyway, and possibly Dwayne Johnson’s. Now that game, If…, is live, and it’s no less intriguing in the way it blends high production values and dedication to its mission to create a viable alternative to much of what school-aged children might otherwise play on their iPads.

The story of If… (the title is inspired by a Rudyard Kipling poem of the same name) unfolds on a planet called Ziggurat where anthropomorphic dogs and cats once lived together in harmony. But something has happened to upset the balance, and it’s up to your child’s customized canine character to get to the bottom of it, starting with a special town called Greenberry. Your guide is named YouDog, a mentor figure who’s one part Yoda, one part Mr. Miyagi and one part man’s best friend.

If...

Other characters follow through the portal to Greenberry in short order to help you with the literal rebuilding. This is the least compelling part of the gameplay, requiring the simple gathering of several resources to restore buildings to their former glory.

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Frontline Commando 2 Review: A love letter to firearms and chest-high walls

Mar 6, 2014

I’m new to the series, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I started up Frontline Commando 2 for the first time. In some ways it’s about what I expected: burly dudes that almost could have come from that one really popular game about throwing bullets at one another. But it’s also a well-constructed shooter that isn’t ridiculously heavy-handed with the in-app purchases. I’d even call it “a lot of fun.”

There’s a story behind the events of Frontline Commando 2, but it’s pretty much just a backdrop. Bad guys doing bad guy things has and will always be a great excuse. Each mission takes place in a fairly enclosed area with a few cover points and quite a few enemy soldiers to shoot at. There’s no open movement, however - players can tap arrows on either side of the screen to move to a new piece of cover in that direction (best used for avoiding explosives or getting a better angle for a shot), but that’s the extent of the movement. Instead, they’ll be using the on-screen virtual buttons to focus on aiming, shooting, and reloading. And not getting shot, obviously.

Frontline Commando 2

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