iOS Reviews

Review: FRAMED

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A dark alley.

One of the more interesting rotations in the game. If I were a better geek, I could make a clever reference to mathematical transformations here, and those few of you who got it would feel special.

Her knock said she expected to be welcome anywhere, she didn’t need to be boorish about it. I give a doll a thorough once-over when she first walks in, but she was short enough it was more like a half-over. Not a real deep thinker, but if I looked and moved like she did, maybe I wouldn’t bother so much about my brain, either. Guess it’s good for my work I look like I do.

FRAMED looks like a graphic novel adaptation of a Dashiell Hammett yarn, with motion that looks just uncanny enough to seem like brilliant animation rather than merely adequate motion capture. You rearrange (and, occasionally, rotate) the frames of each page, altering the story in order to escape with a briefcase. There’s a touch of variety to the plot and gameplay injected by introducing different playable characters, but the MacGuffin remains the same throughout. Also, developers Loveshack credit the Australian government during the opening. That’s not really relevant, I just thought it was groovy.

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Review: The Witcher Adventure Game

Dandelion visits the Tretogor blue token market.

Dandelion visits the Tretogor blue token market.

The Witcher Adventure Game is a strange mix of really bad and the really average. None of its positives will blow you away, but its negatives? Woof.

The Witcher Adventure Game is based on a board game that was released simultaneously with the digital version and, as a board game, it’s okay. It’s from designer Ignacy Trzewiczek, who’s done some brilliant designs like Imperial Settlers and Robinson Crusoe and is known for making strongly thematic, story-driven games. That’s not the case here, but the game itself isn’t terrible. It’s just a tad dull.

The app that brings the board game to us in digital format, however, is a problem. Actually, it’s littered with problems ranging from bugs, poor AI, and some inexplicable choices regarding game saves.
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Review: Pair Solitaire

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Cards, yo.

Simple, understated, classy–the standard 52-card deck is basically how I aim to dress.

Pair Solitaire is a fresh replacement for the Klondike most of us learned as children and now only play when counting flowers on the wall and watching Captain Kangaroo grows stale. The concept is remarkably simple: line up all 52 cards, and then you can remove a card which matches a card not adjacent, but two away from it, either in suit or rank. It requires careful planning to remove as many cards as possible.

The card designs are attractive and the interface handles portrait and landscape equally well, and, while I prefer most games on the iPad, PS works nicely at the smaller phone size. Even better, though unlocking the full version will run you a buck, this only unlocks different card faces and a daily challenge, and removes ads I hadn’t even noticed in the gameplay-complete free version.

Now that I have satisfied Thumper’s dad, that’s everything good I can say about the game. It will find an audience among those who would otherwise be playing Klondike, but this is Pocket Tactics–if you’re coming here at all, you can do better.

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Review: Frontline The Longest Day

Chester’s Minelab Excalibur II blipped a corker charm bracelet.

Chester’s Minelab Excalibur II blipped a corker charm bracelet.

A slog. Hard-fought, with not a single soul pencilling ‘enjoyable’ in their Moleskines. Fingers raw and clawed, eyes red and patience tested. This is one digital D-Day veteran’s account of Frontline: The Longest Day, fresh fare served up from the Slitherine kitchen. 88MM Games’ Normandy-focused turn-based strategy wargame is not a rough or broken piece of work, but given the competition in bringing World War II to the fireside for a spot of evening tabletry, does it have the juice to take Caen?

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Review: Papers, Please for iPad

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"There's got to be something other than being a fisherman or kidnapping people." "Maybe in America."

Human touch.

Like my caveat from the Out There preview, I want to tell you that if you’ve never played Papers, Please before, you should stop reading right here and just go play it. It’s a remarkable experience and I’m pretty sure you’ve never played a game like it before. Don’t read the rest of this review, lest it blunt your experience of the game. See you later, chum.

If you played Papers, Please in its original PC incarnation and are just here to find out if the port is technically solid — oh man is it ever. Papers, Please for iPad is immaculately well-behaved. It consumes only the daintiest portions of memory and battery, and the controls are inarguably superior to the desktop edition’s. Like Subset’s mic-droppingly good port of FTL earlier this year, this iPad version of Papers, Please instantly claims the high perch as the definitive version of the game.

So, last chance to get off this review train if you want to just go discover Papers, Please for yourself. Anybody else? No?

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Review: BattleLore Command

Fighting under the stars

Fighting under the stars

I’m starting to feel a bit spoiled. Seriously, what was the last major board game release that ended up a dud? It sure as hell isn’t BattleLore: Command, the latest release from Fantasy Flight Games, which, despite a major omission, is still a strong contender for digital board game of the year.

If you’re a fan of board games or just strategy games in general, BattleLore: Command is going to trip all your triggers.

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Review: Stalag 17

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Game in progress.

If you think of the jailbreak plan as an order in a restaurant, it’s not hard to imagine a retheme to short-order cookery. I used to work for a short, tyrannical, yet very popular chef.

Stalag 17 is a tense game about escaping from a German POW camp in WWII. It evokes a sense of very limited power and the psychological impact of unpredictable inspections which can cost you all the time and preparation sunk into maximizing a crucial opportunity. Oddly, it’s a hand management game in which you start with only two cards in hand, and your ability to draw more cards is offset by the high cost of being caught with much in it. I ended up feeling like I was locked in a closet and my joy at the key in my hand was tempered by the occasional scrabbling sounds coming from the other side of the door.

Tabletop blockbuster Love Letter has amply demonstrated that it’s possible to make hand management work even with a maximum hand size of one card, but it makes players highly dependent on options for improving that hand. Stalag’s problem is that it feels like it learnt too well the lesson that catch-up mechanisms need to be weak in order to allow the advantage of skill to matter. That’s true, but in a game with some randomness and a relatively low skill ceiling, advantages often come from luck. As a result, the fact that most of your options for improving a terrible hand come with substantial costs feels disempowering. Thematically, that’s perfect–one expects escaping from a POW camp to be terribly difficult and involve a great deal of influence from factors beyond your control. It also means that Stalag is ideally suited for the sort of brief “filler” role in which a strong experience can compensate for limited depth.

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Review: Wars and Battles

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'You'll see how they forget about these "Wolverines."'

‘You’ll see how they forget about these “Wolverines.”‘

You won’t find too many wargame monikers quite as dull as “Wars and Battles”. If French developers Kermorio ever tried their hand at baseball we’d get “Gloves and Caps” — or maybe an FPS called “Persons and Shooting”. I suspect that some children of Kermorio employees are named “Baby”.

Ignore the insipid name — Wars and Battles is an accessible wargame of moderate complexity with cagey scenarios and an intricately-modelled tabletop miniatures aesthetic. It’s lovely to behold and equally lovely to play. Even in a year where the wargame pond has been well stocked with fine beasts (Battle Academy 2, Desert Fox, Commander: The Great War), Wars and Battles is a singular specimen.

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