Surprise, surprise—a licensed mobile game conveniently released to coincide with the near-future opening of the film on which it's based has proven to be subpar. Such is RoboCop from Glu Games. You are Alex Murphy, a good cop and even better lover who was terribly injured and then six-million-dollar-man'd into a futuristic cyborg cop ready to police a world in which robot violence has become commonplace. And though it would probably be sweet if the city of Detroit just let you out on your own to, y'know, slay criminals, you're going to have to train via a series of incredibly lifelike simulations to hone your coppin' and killin' skills before you do any of that.For a film series that is, for all intents and purposes, over the top and god-awful, RoboCop is oddly beloved. As such, most of the buzz we've heard about the upcoming reboot has been negative and/or bewildered, but despite this and the obvious B-movie air with which the films carry themselves, trailers for the upcoming action flick look pretty damn cool. Sadly, this level of high-quality action set-pieces meets bazonkers plot doesn't translate so well into a game so clearly rushed to release in order to capitalize on the possible success of the film.Admittedly, the gritty, urban environments found within RoboCop are not bad. Certainly there are more beautiful games to behold, but for its stand-and-shoot mechanics, the look and feel of each area serves its purpose well. These are some of the better lighting effects and detailed character models to be found within the App Store's 3D shooter stable, and it is undeniably satisfying to line up and execute a headshot on some bespectacled (seriously, a lot of these dudes have glasses) enemies. RoboCop himself looks pretty detailed, but what kind of world are we living in when the hero of a game seems to have had more development attention than gameplay? I guess that this is actually not all that uncommon, but still…it's weird.
- 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."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.
- Before now, developer 17-Bit's masterfully fun Skulls of the Shogun was limited to the world of Windows Phone 8. For those of us who enjoy cleverly executed turn-based strategy titles and are iOS people, this was a travesty. But just when it seemed we might have to travel to the mythical, skeleton-heavy afterworld of Feudal Japan and forcibly bring the game back with us, it hit other platforms like Xbox Live Arcade and Steam. Things looked up, as we spent our days looking at screenshots and dreaming of the day that such a ridiculously charming game might make its way to our chosen devices. That day has come.You are General Akamoto, a Samurai General who, whilst reveling in the spoils of a recent and particularly glorious victory, is felled by the razor sharp blade of a foe. The next thing you know, you're little more than a floating skeleton. Spirited away to the afterlife, Akamoto is shocked and chagrined to learn that between him and an eternity of bliss is a line of fellow dead soldiers. It is estimated that from the point of entry, 2,000 years will pass before our hero arrives at the gates of the true afterlife; and so in true Samurai fashion, he chooses to fight his way to the head of the queue instead."But it won't be easy. If the line seemed bad, the guardians of the afterlife are worse (and no less annoying than standing around like a goon behind who-knows-how-many other skeletons). And though Akamoto will recruit any number of fellow soldiers who range in class from simple infantry and horse-riding bad-asses to snarkily clever archers, there is no end in sight to the obstacles standing in his way.
- The Lord of the Rings brand has become an almost sacred property. So beloved are the books and movies that expectations have grown to proportions nearly as epic as the journey the nine must make to Mordor to destroy the one ring. So how can familiar and exceptional stories be reworked into the video game medium while maintaining the elements that breed popularity while expanding the universe and reaching innovation? Throw LEGOs into the mix. Boom. This is LEGO Lord of the Rings, and you need it.Tolkien's massive tale of power, corruption, love, adventure, and orcs transitions into the LEGO universe with ease. That said, the iOS version is definitely smaller than previous releases. LEGO Lord of the Rings will be especially familiar to those who played last year's handheld or PC/Mac versions of the title, but whether through platform limitations or conscious choice for mobile style of play, everything has been diluted."Encounters and boss battles play out a bit differently, which in and of itself isn't a bad thing. It is, however, something to be aware of for those who are curious. In other words, there are more expanded iterations of this game floating around and just about all unnecessary mechanics have been cut, so should LOTR fans wish to experience a deeper adventure they might be better off playing the more expensive bigger brother versions.Mobile or not, there is no denying that Warner Bros. have executed a fantastic game. The LEGO gaming brand has long been known to infuse subtly humorous moments into not-so-humorous properties, and these spoofs fit with LOTR surprisingly well. For example, the opening moments—Cate Blanchett/Galadriel's speech from The Fellowship of the Ring film transposed over LEGO versions of the same events—provides a moment where one of the kings of men drops his newly-gifted ring.
- The AI is relentless. It is reprogramming itself to wrest control of the station, and it appears on my comms to enlighten me as to what my fate will be. It appears as a "he" and, though polite, he carefully informs me that I am a little more than a virus to him - a bug that must be eradicated. What follows is nothing short of soul-crushing monotony and a host of poorly conceived control and mechanics issues that leave Neon Shadow feeling bogged down and nearly unplayable.The evil AI has been a staple of sci-fi within the world of entertainment since 2001: A Space Odyssey's Hal was asked to open the pod bay doors. And yet, despite this well-worn material, the concept itself is rife with opportunity. Think to such classic gaming experiences as the Mother Brain of Chrono Trigger and you've got a recipe for multi-genre overlap. Unfortunately, any subject matter is only as good as its execution, and Neon Shadow is executed poorly."Controls are of the virtual variety, an element that has certainly become common enough to be implemented well. The option to lock the virtual joystick to a static location is helpful enough, but the camera and shooting buttons rest right on top of one another: meaning you'll either shoot when you wish to move, or vice-versa. Additionally, it is uncomfortable to switch between camera control and firing, and this often results in little choice beyond coming to a complete stop to survey your surroundings.A learning curve is implied within the framework of today's modern gaming experiences (especially mobile), but when enemies swarm from multiple directions and make movement impossible, all you can do is stand in one place, hope for the best, and curse your depleting health bar as you frantically try to locate that incoming fire, that ill-intentioned quad-copter, or what appears to be some sort of laser-mounted robotic vacuum cleaner.
- "Die…again!" I shout as I lay waste to a gaggle of undead, hell-bent on eating my brains. I swing my wrench, landing a mighty blow against the crown of an incoming zombie. With the bulk of my ravenous foes lying in a bloody heap on the floor, I make the call to save the rest for later and rebuild a nearby barrier. Switching to my SMG in case more zombies approach from beyond the 2x4s nailed to the wall, I step to the opening and begin the job. It only takes a few moments, but every second counts. I dash past corpses in various states of decomposition, pump a few bullets into an explosive barrel to buy myself precious time, swallow a fistful of painkillers to up my health and reach my goal.I've already refilled the old generator with fuel, and now I must launch the satellite that will allow me to contact the resistance. It works, and my comms connect to the AM frequency. "If you are hearing this, you are the resistance," the disembodied voice tells me. "We have small pockets operating all over the globe. We must live on! We must fight! We need every single one of you." With this new drive to aid the human race, things are finally looking up."But my HUD has just informed me a particularly nasty zombie, the Vomitron, is incoming. I turn as quickly as I can, and it is just in time for the terrible creature to lumber into view and spew puke into my eyes. I fire frantically in his general direction as I wait for the mess to clear, and when my vision returns I can see that he's brought some friends. Damn…out of bullets. With a deep breath of resolve, I brandish my wrench once more and dash heroically into the fray. "You like that!?" I ask as I land the final crippling blow in his melting, undead face.
- You begin on a boat in the middle of a vast body of water. Rain pours down as thunder cracks in the distance and lightning strikes repeatedly. You have no indication as to how you have come to be here, but as you read the note from your nameless partner who has already explored the area, you learn that something is very wrong. When your watercraft reaches dry land and an ominous feeling of dread overtakes you, one thing is certain—Indigo Lake is not a normal place.Armed with only a pistol and your wits, you must traverse from cabin to cabin in what must have been a rather charming locale once upon a time. Perhaps children played here by the shore of Indigo Lake as their fathers barbequed and their mothers relaxed on the porches of the rustic wooden cabins. Those days are long gone, however, and a mysterious trail of notes and laptops begin to shed light on the chilling facts. Those who dwelled here began to commit suicide in alarming numbers as the spirit of a young girl terrorized the area. With each cabin you discover, information left by your nameless partner reveals more of the story. The inhabitant of this cabin hung himself; those who lived in that cabin jumped from a bridge to their death. Heart attacks, gunshot wounds and on and on and on..."All the while, the spirit is nipping at your heels and supernatural phenomena serves to intimidate and disorient. Crates, pianos, and beds hang in mid-air as you make your way forward. The girl even appears from time to time, seemingly toying with you. It's almost as if she can sense the moment your heart finally starts to beats slower and you think you'll be okay, and then she shows her ghastly face or screams an ear-piercing scream from someplace in the distance.
- For the most part, bears are pretty nice. Oh sure, a mother bear will fully rip your face off should you get in between her and her cubs, but usually the world's largest land predator would rather just hang around waterfalls catching salmon and looking cute and stuff like that. But imagine waking up to a world in which bears were the dominant species. Walking upright, they dress as humans do, populate zoos with mankind, and learn to speak. That would be totally weird, right? And yet this is what happens in the aptly titled Fist of Awesome from developer Nicoll Hunt's imprint, I Fight Bears - an indie publisher which proclaims from the title screen that they make "games for people with beards."Our hero, a lumberjack type named Tim Burr, is enjoying a reunion of friends and family when his fist suddenly explodes in size (think Foo Fighter's excellent Everlong music video) and begins to speak to him. The fist goes by the name of Awesome, and he is here with terrible, bone-chilling news! At some point in history, the space/time continuum was disrupted resulting in an alternate present in which bears call the shots. Tim appears to be the one human left who can recall what once was, and he, along with his newly gigantic, wise-cracking fist must undertake a heroic quest to discover what went wrong and right this new and terrible bear-heavy world."First of all, developer Nicoll Hunt needs to be congratulated immediately. According to the credits, most of the development duties were handled by Hunt (with three animators providing support), and the level of detail conveyed with the charmingly retro pixilated graphics is nothing short of astounding. Here is a developer who clearly loves the early days of gaming and has created a universe accordingly. Fist of Awesome reinforces this nostalgic feeling with a healthy does of humor as well. "What the Hall & Oates is going on!?" Tim exclaims early on, and the laughs build from there. Awesome is a great sidekick and provides plenty of jokes and sarcastic banter throughout your adventure in addition to his set of powerful moves.