Apple's App Store is no stranger to drag racing games, perhaps owing to the very simplicity of their design, and thus you could be forgiven for approaching Racing Rivals with a heavy dose of skepticism. And yet, for the most part, it's unwarranted. Cie Games and Nitto Tire have given us a game that's as fun as it is visually appealing, and the inclusion of an enjoyable multiplayer component allows it to surge ahead of many of its rivals.
- Mere moments into my playthrough of Soldiers Inc., one thought asserted itself above all the others - the music was rather good for a social strategy game. As I trudged through the familiar motions of base building and resource collection, I found I had to amend that - no, it was really good. And for good reason, too. Although it has many of the stylings found in a host of other Facebook strategy games, Soldiers Inc. has the great fortune to feature the music of Jesper Kyd, the composer behind such scores as Assassin's Creed and Darksiders 2. Call me shallow, but that's enough to warrant a play of this otherwise run-of-the-mill strategy game in my book.
- Production values aren't everything, but all the same, it's hard not to do a double take when you boot up Vega Conflict and find yourself confronted with a well-voiced and decently animated cutscene. Here, such attention seems to suggest, is a social strategy game for Facebook among the legions of tired clones that's actually worth playing. For the most part, that's true. Vega Conflict may tread similar ground as KIXEYE's previous hit, Battle Pirates, but it handles the transition to space with panache.
- A well-known Portlandia skit features two goofballs who maintain that everything's better if you merely "put a bird on it." With Dragons of Atlantis: Heirs of the Dragon, Kabam seems to think that you can improve the tired social combo of city building and abstract strategic warfare by putting a dragon on it. In some ways, it works, if only because it's fun to watch a dragon spreading its wings on your screen, rather than contemplating a static representation of a city. Looking for something more innovative, though? You won't find it here.
- Mutants: Genetic Gladiators takes place in a future where science has advanced so thoroughly that we can clone and breed humanoid creatures right down to their armor, but where culture has declined so significantly that no one wonders if there isn't something ethically wrong in letting lab experiments battle to the death. It's Pokémon with an incubator - you create your fighters using processes that might as well have been ripped from the Dummy's Guide to Genetics and use the remnants of the shattered world as your arena. Provided you can suffer through all of the associated waits, it's actually rather fun for a while.
- Thirty minutes into Wartune and my thoughts aren't on my character or the world around me. Instead, they're centered on this: how on earth has a game like this existed for so long without drawing the ire of Blizzard Entertainment? Bullish humanoids in vaguely Native American-garb called "Taurens" stomp around menacing the countryside, and globules signifying your health and mana appear lifted pixel by pixel from the Diablo series. It's a good thing that Wartune is kind of fun, or it'd be easy to dismiss it as a cheap knockoff of better titles.
- Maybe I'm missing something. When I picked up Total Domination: Reborn, I suppose I was expecting features that warranted such a lofty subhead; features like a host of new units, real-time battles, and other assorted goodies that would distinguish it from its web-based progenitor. No such luck. Instead, what we have here is much the same juggle of city building and battle strategy that's already attracted thousands of satisfied players, all handsomely repackaged and redesigned for release on mobile devices. All in all, if you're into social strategy, that's not necessarily a bad thing.
- It's unfortunate, but I found my principal enjoyment of Castlot in the names that some of its most devoted players use to refer to it in the public and alliance chat channels. One person calls it "Cashalot," while recounting the dozens of dollars he spent on protection scrolls to level; another calls it "Cast Lots," referring to a gambling-based resource game. They speak from long experience. After all, Castlot isn't exactly a new social strategy game - it's been around for a couple years in beta, and the recent update simply introduced some upgrades to the gameplay and aesthetics. But if my couple of hours with it were enough to serve as any indication, they're not necessarily substantial enough to warrant casting lots of your own in the hope of a better experience.