Review: Alto’s Adventure

Screenshot_20160421-173845Alto’s Adventure (from Snowman) is an endless runner side scroller in which you are snowboarding down a mountain to catch your escaped llamas.

I’ve played a lot of endless runners, and I have to say this is my favorite, by far. It has Screenshot_20160421-174052beautiful graphics, and the setting changes as the sun rises and sets. You can see sunsets and sunrises, as well as stormy skies and lighting flashing down against the mountains in the distance. You’ll travel through abandoned villages, ice flows, Screenshot_20160421-182912spooky forests, and occasionally find villages with elders that chase after you.

The variety, and beauty of this game make it an amazing find. Even the music and sound effects are quite fitting.

Alto is free, however for $3.99 you can purchase an Screenshot_20160421-175424upgrade that permanently doubles the value of all coins in the game, allowing you to purchase upgrades in the shop. There are no microtransactions. Just a free version, and a paid version that is simple and easy. You can, however, watch a video in order to continue on a failed run, or spend some of your hard earned coins. I appreciated the fact that the videos they advertised were for games they thought I might like, and not a loud insurance commercial.

There are also several characters you can unlock with different abilities that might help you get farther, and Alto (the main character) as a wingsuit you can eventually purchase with coins to help you get across the wider chasms.

Screenshot_20160421-183004I honestly can’t tell you how much I love this game. It’s challenging, but so beautifully done that I couldn’t stop playing it. Since each level is randomly generated, and the weather and time of day are constantly changing, it has an incredible amount of variety. Even the warrior that chase you are well done, and it’s so much fun jumping and dodging them as they swing at you.

Alto has earned itself a permanent place in my collection. I hope you’ll try it as well.

Review: Prune

2016-04-09 06.40.14Prune (by Joel McDonald) is a beautiful game with simplistic design that becomes increasingly difficult. In Prune you must grow a tree and help it reach the light where it can flower. You slice off branches, pruning them, to allow other branches to grow stronger, and direct the tree into the light.

2016-04-09 06.38.07It’s a simple concept, but it’s made difficult by adding in strange configurations of the landscape, red planetoids that will infect and wither away your tree, and gates that must be opened by one branch so the rest of the tree can grow through to the sunlight.

2016-04-09 06.39.11The graphics for this title are simple in design, using a black and cream aesthetic with touches of color to signify danger, or growth. The music is relaxing, and it all combines for a very zen experience.

The game mechanics grow slowly over time, allowing you to learn each new step through trial and error. There are no words, no text on screen, nothing to direct me to the goal and yet I easily found my way through to the goal.

Prune is a fantastic game to add to your collection.

Review: Lost Echo

lost echo 0You walk into a beautiful little garden area and meet your girlfriend. She’d like an ice cream with syrup, so you gladly get it for her. Then the world turns on its axis and Chloe is whisked away on a white beam of light. When you wake in the hospital no one knows who Chloe is, and you have to try and figure out what’s going on.

lost echo 3That is the world of “Lost Echo” (from KickBack). A mystery surrounds you and you have to figure out what is real, and what you imagined. Everyone around you keeps telling you that Chloe doesn’t exist you keep searching for the truth. You just have to find her.

lost echo 1This game was designed perfectly for mobile. The graphics are smooth and just detailed enough to give you a sense of the world around you while not over stressing your phone. Even on a small screen, it has great resolution. You tap to move, double tap to run, and tap again to interact with objects. Text is easy to read, and the music dreamy, fitting with the mysterious world you find yourself in.

lost echo 5Each area has new objects to interact with. Some you add to your inventory for later use. Some are used to solve puzzles, or trigger events in the current area. But each task fits well with the story happening as you move along.

 

Overall a well-designed mobile game.

Lost Echo is available on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon and Humble Bundle for $2.99. There are no advertisements.

 

Review: Desktop Dungeon

desktop ungeon 1Dungeon crawlers are a staple of the video game scene. Rouge likes with randomly generated terrain, and monsters to try and defeat, are perfect for the mobile experience.

Desktop Dungeon (by QCF) falls into this category. You are in a caravan that has been overrun by monsters. Now you can go into local dungeons and find supplies, slay monsters, and gain more power to go ever deeper in the mines. “You’re going to die,” it warns you, just before killing you for the first time. But that’s okay because you just go on to the next villager and try again.

desktop dungeon 3This is a well-crafted game with lots of monsters, a village hub, and easily navigated (though difficult) dungeons. The music is decent, though not very memorable, and the graphics are on par for the cramped spaces you’ll be crawling through.

As much as I liked the game it just isn’t suitable for the mobile experience. The text isn’t large enough, and the dungeon is tiny on my 3×4 inch screen. There’s too much going on in the tiny area: spells, equipment, monster stats, and more.

desktop dungeon 2On a large screen, like a tablet or a computer, this would be a fantastic rouge like dungeon crawler (and it is currently available on Steam for $15). There is a lot to do, and many areas to explore. But on the phone I found myself straining to see the icons, and squinting to read text. I came away with a headache.

I think I’d like to try this again on a large screen, but I’ll be deleting it from my phone. And it is of note that the alpha build is available on their website for FREE. Try the alpha, if you like, before purchasing the full version.

Review: Framed

panel 1 In this quick paced comic book style game you have to move around comic panels to get the spy past the guards. In Framed (from Noodlecake Studio Inc) each frame has a specific action, and the spy reacts accordingly. Have the table in one frame and a stair case in another? He’ll go down the stairs and then across the table, or trip over the table and fall down the stairs depending on which way you have the frames ordered.

Fantastic music in this game, it reminds me panel 3of the old spy thrillers from the 90’s. The art style, while minimalist, gets the point across beautifully, and even on a small 3×4 inch screen I could see exactly what I was doing, and could anticipate the spy’s movements around the environment.

panel 2It is quick paced, and I was able to get through several “pages” of the comic in less than thirty minutes. While the basic story is a thief or spy trying to avoid police, the different strategies to avoid them made each page incredibly fun to figure out, then watch the different solutions. At times I wanted to mix up the panels just to see how the spy failed.

This game is absolutely perfect for a touch screen experience. At $2.15 on google play it’s a fantastic buy. I purchased my copy through a humble bundle, and the game was ad free and worked perfectly on my HTC M8. Highly recommended.

Review: Star Trek Timelines

startrek0If you love Star Trek then “Star Trek Timelines” (from Disruptor beam) is a great game.

ST Timelines is a strategic story line game in which you lead various members of the Federation from mission to mission to save the universe from total annihilation.

startrek4There are many things I loved about this game. They pull sound assets from all of the major Star Trek TV series, and your crew can consist of almost every crew member from every series including DS9 and Voyager. The artwork is fantastic. I was able to watch the enterprise facing off with a Romulan bird of prey…on my phone.  Even the music had a very authentic Star Trek feel to it.

startrek3In this game there has been an anomaly that spans the universe. This temporal anomaly has merged timelines, alternate histories, and worlds from every era all onto one plane of existence. This is creating havoc as planets and people from various timelines try to find a place in this new universe. So while Q is off playing God to try and fix the anomaly, you are tasked with resolving the many squabbles that erupt between different factions.

In the missions I played they touched on several alternate versions of federated space including Khan and the augments tampering with Klingon history, and an evil Worf attacking the Vulcan home world.

startrek2As for the game play itself, there isn’t a lot to it. You go to a mission and have to pair the right crew member with the right mission. “Winning” will give you some loot and progress the mission log. Occasionally there will be a battle in which you face off against another ship. You have a few buttons you can click to put up shields, or fire an extra volley of torpedoes, but otherwise you just watch the battle unfold.

startrek1Still, the battles do look pretty amazing, especially considering it is on your phone. While the missions are simple pairing of the right crew member with the right path there is still a story for you to read, and there is a fail condition.

I do hope that with advancement comes greater difficulty in choices, and more activity in the ship to ship battle scenes.

On the whole, if you love Star Trek you will probably enjoy collecting the various crew members and upgrading their equipment. The story and music are also worth the listen. The voice acting by John de Lancie is always good. A good way to pass some time in the multiverse, but not the most engaging endeavor. I would give it a 4 of 5 stars.

Edit: When I first wrote this review I hadn’t played enough to notice the microtransactions yet. After a few days of play I still haven’t been bothered by them very much. There is a system limiting your missions per day, but there is a lot to do between faction missions, story line, and leveling up your characters that I found the limit on how many missions you can run didn’t intrude too much. Each time I play in able to play for about half an hour before I run out of things to do. Then I let it recharge and play again.