Pocket Takes: Star Trek Rivals, Hero of Many, and Sherlock Holmes 2

By PT Staff 04 Jul 2013 0
Sperm flocking to an egg. Hero of Many … Spermatozoa?

In this edition of Pocket Takes, Kelsey and Owen have a look at the decidedly illogical Star Trek Rivals, moody monochromatic adventure Hero of Many, and the latest appearance of everyone's favorite public domain detective Sherlock Holmes.

These three capsule reviews are after the jump.

Star Trek Rivals

All I've got left is my bones. McCoy won't look so smug when he realizes which game he's in.

Even with my expectations calibrated so low as to be essentially two-dimensional, Star Trek Rivals still managed to disappoint. The App Store's new plague this season is the licensed collectible card game -- and Star Trek Rivals is probably better than many of them, but it's still bad.

Star Trek Rivals has a leg up on the Transformers game Clancy reviewed a few weeks back: it's actually a (barely) interesting game. STR is a clone of Triple Triad from Final Fantasy VIII -- you lay down a card on a 3x3 grid. Each card has numbers that correspond to its four edges, and if I place a card with a higher number adjacent to yours, I convert your card to my color. It's not bad, but it's only a shade more involving than Old Maid or Go Fish. Final Fantasy had the sense to make this a mini-game within a larger construct, not base an entire product around it.

The saving grace of these sorts of games is usually the artwork. Even if the game's mostly a bore, you can gawk at high-res images of the Enterprise and those alien cat girls, right? Nope. Star Trek Rivals lacks the good sense to know what it's most valuable asset is, and buries the low-resolution art under pointless UI cruft. I'm afraid you've left the parking brake on, Mr. Sulu. --Owen Faraday


2 out of 5


The game was played on the iPhone 4S for this review.


Hero of Many

Aye. Me little swimmers.

Hero of Many demonstrates that Limbo's silhouette-heavy visual style doesn't carry a game. Essentially, you play an egg who swims around (never mind how, as you've no visible means of locomotion) a maze collecting followers which clearly evoke sperm. The central fact about the game is that it has no in-game text of any kind; this seems to exacerbate the game's faults and provide it one valuable opportunity: animation is used very well to communicate the nature of objects seen only in profile. There's even a complicated mellogoth relationship with a red egg which steals health pods you'd rather have had, but assists you later in a surprisingly touching episode conveyed almost entirely through the movement of two circles.

Language is a fabulous tool for communicating, though, and avoiding it means wasting a lot of your time and sacrificing anything you can't be expected to discover that way. So combat with the evil black sperm seems to offer few tactical options, you can checkpoint into repeated imminent doom because checkpoints don't do anything fancy with the game state, interface options must be learned through trial and error (like the difference between "|<", and the circle arrow, both of which seem like they ought to return you to the most recent checkpoint), and they use light-based automatic breadcrumbs rather than a more useful mapping utility. A familiar setting might have ameliorated these problems to some extent, but the thematic incoherence of light-eating gametes navigating a warren of weedy, rock-strewn fallopian tubes doesn't leave you with much on which to hang your expectations. --Kelsey Rinella


2 out of 5


The game was played on the iPhone 4 for this review.


Sherlock Holmes 2: The Black River Emerald

The book offers a trial of intuition. If you choose to read the book, turn to page 69.

Sherlock Holmes has long been out of copyright, which has led to his appearance in some surprising contexts, including a 1987 gamebook by Peter Ryan. This has now been translated well enough to iOS by The Interactive Book Company that the faults with the app lie primarily with the source.

Holmes himself appeared relatively little in my playthrough; the reader is cast as a boarding school student accused of stealing the titular emerald, and mostly investigates the theft himself. Like a choose-your-own-adventure book, you make choices along the way, but there's also some randomness in the available options (based on whether you pass skill checks in skills you are able to customize at the beginning). While I didn't regard it as especially well-written, it has the attraction of a mystery on which one makes rapid progress, though the main character's relatively unsophisticated methods put me in mind of Fred Durkin. It can be an amusing contrast to the usual scintillating performance of the genius detective--at one point, I fell out of a tree and was halfheartedly beaten by those on whom I'd been spying. One of the joys of a gamebook is connecting some of the dots to which you happen to be exposed into a coherent theme: a few unlucky rolls lead to characterization as an oaf whose later dextrous success is all the sweeter/failure is understandable, if poignant. Unfortunately, like any mystery, once you know the secret, it's far less interesting, which a completionist would find particularly troubling since there's no way to see all of the book on the first play (I apparently only completed 28% before I got to the end). Though I don't think mysteries are well-suited to interaction, the very daring of doing one anyway makes its moderate success more satisfying. --KR


3 out of 5


• iOS universal edition: Sherlock Holmes 2: The Black River Emerald, $1.99

The game was played on the iPhone 4 for this review.

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