In this edition of Pocket Takes: a new iPad edition of that old copy of Stratego that’s gathering dust in the family room, a “hardcore restaurant sim” that is very hardcore indeed, and a tower defense game that knocks you off your lofty pedestal and encourages you to get your hands dirty for once. All three reviews after the jump.
Keesing Games’ new iPad edition of Stratego is attractively rendered and can boast of some clever design. The game comes with AI for single player (and a fairly brutal one at that) but the focus is clearly on multiplayer. Here you can play a traditional 40-piece game of Stratego, hunting through your opponent’s lines in search of his hidden flag, but this takes just as long as you remember from childhood and isn’t particularly suited to online multiplayer. A thoughtfully included 10-piece mode departs from the traditional board game and allows for a game that can be resolved in a matter of minutes. This is a perfect dose for Stratego’s multiplayer, which strictly live – no asynchronous games here, unfortunately.
Stratego’s graphics are crisp and modern, though perhaps too modern: the character portraits look more ready for an American’s Next Top Male Model casting call than they do for a Napoleonic Wars re-enactors’ meetup.
The touch interface has the occasional misfire, betraying this edition’s browser game origins. There’s also no Game Center support, meaning that you’ll need to sign up for a new account and track down your friends all over again – a pain, but a temporary one worth enduring for the thrilling 10-piece matches.
3 out of 5
Cook Serve Delicious
Cook Serve Delicious took me for an expectations roller coaster ride. Billing itself as “a hardcore restaurant sim”, I expected CSD to play like a business sim when it’s actually a time management game. It won me over anyway.
Cook Serve Delicious casts you as the new manager of the titular restaurant, a greasy spoon in the lobby of an office building. Like one of the Hedleys from In Living Color, you aren’t just CSD’s owner but its short-order cook, cashier, purchasing officer, and janitor. Customers stream through the doors of the restaurant and place orders, which you must prepare using a clever swipe and touch control scheme and deliver to your patrons before they run out of patience. Periodically, the trash or dishes will need doing, adding something else into the mix that you must juggle.
An Impressions business sim this ain’t, but the frantic action and the way the game segments your attention make it the equal of any action game on the App Store in terms of excitement. It’s also very visually endearing – the art is all hand-drawn and wonderfully kitsch. Artist Sara Gross has drawn everyone in the world of Cook Serve Delicious with the same hangdog face, and even when they’re angry because of a missed order your melancholy customers merely grumble and slink away. The only person on earth who’s in a hurry is you – which is just as well because the trash needs taking out again.
4 out of 5
Heroes and Castles
Although its name couldn’t be more generic, Heroes and Castles is a relatively unique proposition on iOS. Like Sanctum on the PC or the Dynasty Warriors games for consoles, Heroes and Castles pulls you down from your birds-eye view of tower defense games and dumps you right down amidst the peons, hacking and slashing your way through the hordes of bad guys.
That hacking and slashing can get a little clumsy, relying as it does on a virtual control pad, but the game has unexpected depth. Gold earned in each battle can be spent to improve your hold’s defenses or add to the troops you can summon to your aid on the battlefield. There are plentiful stages and five different heroes to level up, though defeating the later stages requires some requisite grinding of levels you’ve already cleared.
Heroes and Castles has the blocky, polygonal look of mid-90s shooters like Quake 2, but the upshot of the relatively primitive graphics is that the hordes besiging your castle really are proper hordes. I was perennially surprised by how many enemies the game managed to stuff onto the screen with no apparent slowdown – at least, not on a 3rd-gen iPad. The controls won’t be to everyone’s taste, but those who aren’t bothered will find a lightly strategic action game with a lot of content to enjoy.