Posts tagged ‘Games’

Knight Defense HD for iPad

Knight Defense HD for iPad is one of the hardest games I have ever had to review and summarise, but rest assured that it’s for all the right reasons!

It’s just that it’s so unique in the gaming landscape and not like ANYTHING I’ve ever played before.

Knight Defense

It’s got an extremely unique, refreshing and fun feel to the gameplay mechanics, with elements of strategy, action, tower defence and quick thinking tactics. It is very stable and polished to play on touch screen, in fact, I think with a mouse it would be uber-stressful to play!

As you probably know, the game is based on the rules of chess; at least in terms of how your own pieces can move and attack. However, the enemy spawns from fixed spots on the board and move in straight lines towards your King, whom you have to protect through several waves of increasing enemy numbers to complete a level.

Quite honestly, the concept of the game is so pure and comfortable from the off that I’m massively surprised nothing like this has been seen before (at least not by me!). Basing a game on the best real-world game ever devised is pure genius game design really!

The most captivating thing about it is that you can immediately sense there are dozens of ways you can approach your game, from a strategic and tactical point of view.

At the start of a game, you’re allowed to arrange your pieces on the board before activating the enemy waves, so this is your first decision! What arrangement will give you the strongest defence placement and coverage, bearing in mind how pieces can ‘attack’ (for example castles in vertical or horizontal lines, bishops in diagonal lines, pawns 1 square forward and to the side etc).

Secondly, you can use your points to upgrade pieces (8 tiers each, with each upgrade costing incrementally more) but by doing this you take points away from your final score, so you have to balance what strength you think you need versus getting a bigger score for the Gamecentre or OpenFeint integrated leaderboards, if you are so inclined.

Possibly, most intriguingly, your pieces positions are not fixed once the game starts! You can slide pieces around according to the rules of chess and you may have to move other pieces out of the way if you want to get some ‘troops’ forward if their moving path is blocked. This makes for some frantic repositioning mid-game as your defences get broken down.

Some very balanced subtleties come into play such as realising that you can guide the direction of the enemies charges by moving your King around, thus leading groups of enemies into ambushes or even riskier moves such as getting them to go back up the board into the line of fire for a second time (to start with, the human player is at the bottom of the screen, with enemies coming down at you from their spawn points).

Also, when you use some of your points to upgrade a unit, it also replenishes any damage they have taken, so by timing your upgrades when damage has been done you get the added bonus of restoring their health “for free”.

Each unit has a cool-down timer, which regularly unlocks a special ability (each piece having it’s own) which can really swing the situation in your favour if used wisely.

All of this combines to make one of the most interesting, varied, compelling, fresh and skilful strategy games I’ve played. It’s the sort of thing you could get really ‘pro’ at!

Visually, it’s stylish, smooth and colourful, but has a mature feel to it. Sound effects and music complement the action well, rounding off the experience. It is a very stable program with some well implemented features.

I’d love to see how the game progresses with updates. Hopefully it will be successful enough to allow the developer to add some sort of real-time multiplayer mode. This could be the competitive equivalent to StarCraft for the iPad!!

All in all if you like games that require some thought but are easy to learn and to conceptually understand, but with a lot of room for developing your own strategies and ways to play, I can recommend Knight Defense HD very highly indeed!

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City of Secrets (HD for iPad)

City of Secrets (and HD) is an iPhone and iPad classical point and click adventure game presented with beautiful hand drawn art, layered 2D backgrounds and a 3D character cast, fully spoken throughout.

City of Secrets HD

The main characters you control are Rex (a little dog) and Mr Moles. Originally cartoon characters in Polish media, they have been in existence for nearly 100 years, so there’s a big back-story there for those keen enough to research it!

Various other games with the characters have been launhed on various platforms, selling over a million copies in Eastern Europe, but this is their first appearance on the iOS platform!

It’s a charming game, with a personality all of it’s own. The balance between intricacy of puzzles and accessibility is pitched about right, with the puzzles giving up a good challenge, but never getting too frustrating.

There are several methods to point players in the right direction such as a notebook containing a list of completed and ‘to-do’ tasks – and a hint system giving a written clue for the next most important task if you really get stuck!

City of Secrets HDFor more seasoned players there are numerous more subtle clues in the voice-overs and art itself, but it’s easy to miss the relevance of the spoken clues the first time around, and there’s no way to go back and read any spoken dialogue, so you will have to have your best detective head on and pay attention to really grasp it all! A notepad would be handy because it’s pretty obvious when a clue is told, but hard to remember it when it comes to the realisation of how to use it!

Most puzzles involve searching for items, sometimes combining them in the inventory, exploring the scenes and talking to the inhabitants, then using the right items to progress the plot.

The animated story is split into 5 chapters, and follows the adventures of Mr Moles, trying to save Poco Pane (the moles underground world) from being taken over by the sneaky rats!
City of Secrets HDChapters are introduced by a narrator, commenting on the action and giving context to the next scene. In some chapters control is passed to Rex the dog which gives a nice change of pace and feeds off the relationship between the main characters. In ways, it reminded me a lot of Wallace & Gromit or Sam & Max in the way the characters work together in the story, and has a lot of the quirky charm of those games, although the puzzles are more object and action led rather than talking to the right people with the correct responses so City of Secrets still has it’s own feel, with the much better option of smooth and attractive backdrops rather than slightly under-resolution 3D!

The game is crafted to work very well with touch controls, although there is usually only one context for each interaction which simplifies it, rather than in Lucasarts games where you can choose between actions for an object.

The whole game is very atmospheric and highly polished, with the artwork pulling it all together.

City of Secrets HDI understand there are going to be other episodes of the series, but there is an entire cohesive story arc contained within City of Secrets.

The stability of the game is also to be commended – never even thought about crashing. It’s also got a rock-solid load/save system, as well as automatic quick saves each time something significant happens so you won’t ever lose any progress.

I love adventure games on iPad – in my opinion they are the perfect genre for the device… It’s such a chilled way of playing that it feels like an interactive book with a life of its own! You can just pick it up and carry on with your story at your pace, in a very tactile way.


You can see the full details on their website: www.AidemMedia.com
Or download the official Press Release here: Aidem Press Release – City Of Secrets

 

www.AidemMedia.com.

Real Racing HD vs Need for Speed Shift

A comparison between the 2 main iPad racing games at launch has left me a little surprised. I only recently bought NFS Shift to see what it was like, seeing as it was getting lots of 5 star reviews, and must say I’m impressed by it!

They are both fundamentally ports of their iPhone compatriarts enhanced for the bigger screen and more processing power.

Both are excellent games in their own way so there’s definitely room for both in your collection depending on what you’re looking for.

Read on for a full and detailed comparison between Real Racing by Firemint and Need For Speed Shift by EA.

The presentation, menus & interface

Real Racing’s menus are a lot more attractive in most ways. They use the screen space better and the text is much neater with a much more ‘tech’ design to them. NFS is pure arcade console style menus but still easy to navigate, although there are a lot more steps to get to the action.

Both games have similar control options and view options. You can have driver asssists such as steering help, braking help, auto braking, auto accelerate and automatic gearbox – or turn any of those off for a more hardcore experience. Personally I drive with auto gearbox on but everything else off so that you can lift off the throttle without necessarily braking to help get around certain bends as smoothly as possible and losing minimal momentum.

You can drive the cars with external chase cams, bonnet cam or an in-cockpit view. I always like to drive in-car so can’t really comment on the other views. I find it much easier to gauge speed and position on the road from a cockpit view purely because it’s more realistic and I can put myself in the game more naturally. Both games have excellent views with this camera mode I’m pleased to say – they work really well.

One BIG gripe with Real Racing is that there is no rear view mirror on screen where NFS has both rear view and door mirrors with the in-car view. This is compounded by the fact that you have to press at the top middle of the screen to look behind which is pretty much impossible when you are holding the screen like a steering wheel! This seems like its just a direct port of the iPhone controls where it’s only a thumb distance away but this really doesn’t work on the iPad! Surely there is enough processing oomph to have an on-screen rear view mirror!?!

The cars, tracks & game structure

Both games have a quick race option and a career mode. Real Racing also has online leagues whereby you compete on time limited events to set your best result which is compared to other drivers registered for that league at the end of the timer, and championship results worked out from there. You can repeat each event as many times as you want within the timeframe until you are happy with your performance, then submit your times and move to the next event when the timer progresses. All this synchs up to their Cloudcell website where you can view stats, replays and league tables. This is a quality bit of depth that NFS lacks.

Real Racing is all circuit based venues, with racing kerbs, barriers, grandstands and gravel run-off areas. There is a good selection of fictional tracks which all look really nice. NFS on the other hand is all city based tracks. It has 4 famous cities with 7 variations of the same circuit in each. They all feel pretty similar to drive on so overall I prefer the RR tracks… But then I am a technical circuit racing fan over street racing! Having said that the tracks in NFS are well designed and fairly challenging so far.

Real Racing consists mainly of made up cars, with the only real-world car being a VW Golf GTi. There are 4 classes of car: hot hatches, saloons, muscle cars and GT sports cars – getting faster/harder to drive as you move up the ranks. Each class has a fair amount of cars within but they are basically all the same in each class, with different skins.

NFS has a good range of real cars with varying performance and drivability. You can also upgrade them with nitro, more power, better tyres and suspension. It would be a shame for this fact alone to be a decision maker for players but I can understand why it would be… It’s nice to pretend to drive your favourite make of car rather than some anonymous clones. However what it’s really about is the driving so lets move on!!

The driving & racing

Now the meat of any driving game is of course the driving!
This is where the games differ from each other the most, and where the root of my initial surprise stems from. When I first got my iPad, Real Racing was the 2nd app I downloaded (after Civ!) and I avoided NFS assuming it would be very arcadey on rails driving, but I’m happy to say that I was wrong!

Both games rely on picking your braking points and choosing a good racing line. Real Racing is more technical and strict on this in order to stay competitive once you get up to the higher levels of opponents, but that is largely because you are going so much faster around the laps that it’s so critical to get every turn in right and minimize the angles of the corners as much as possible.

Need for Speed feels much more under control with what I would say are more realistic travelling speeds, so it’s easier to pick your line and smoothly go around corners in a nice controlled arc. Even with steering help turned off there is some sort of influence there but I think its better for it… the driving is more FUN and less reliant on twitch reactions.

The AI give a good fight in both games. Again NFS is more under control… Cars stick to their lines more consistently so it’s easier to plan a pass on them. In Real Racing they drive a bit wild and seem to get pretty confused if you aren’t where they would expect you to be and doing simmilar speeds to them. It all moves too fast for you to really feel confident about placing your car next to them or outbraking them. It’s more a case of diving for the apex and hoping you can get on the power before them without running wide on the exit.

In terms of driving feel, RR is kind of seat of the pants driving, but very satisfying when you get a clean and fast lap in. It really does fly, especially with the faster cars. The downside is that it’s nigh on impossible to detect understeer or oversteer. In Need for Speed there is a nice transition into understeer, where you can almost FEEL the front end bouncing and scrabbling for grip. There’s a technique to recover the situation without clobbering the barriers, but you definitely lose momentum, so it is still satisfying when you get the slow-in fast-out approach right!

The BIG thing I don’t like in NFS is the fake way you force the car into a drift by turing the iPad quickly in the direction of the corner. It’s well overdone and very very arcadey. I don’t normally drive like that anyway but some events in the career are actual “drift” events, so you HAVE to do it to get enough points to pass. It just feels wrong. The drift angles are unnaturally severe and there is no skill in keeping it drifting, giving far too much leeway and pretty much sticking to the curvature of the bend on it’s own like Ridge Racer.

They are both aiming at different goals here but both are interesting to master.

The graphics & sounds

Graphically, they both look stunning in play. Real Racing has THE MOST AMAZING frame rate… seriously smooth (which is why I think they could easily implement an on-screen rear view mirror without impacting the performance at all) and really nice clear graphics. The bouncing effect when you jump over kerbs is very convincing and the pace really feels like playing on a current-gen console.

Need for Speed is a bit more jerky, which is distinctly noticeable coming straight from an RR session, but absolutely fine when playing. It would be nice if they could double the smoothness of frame rate but I think there is a bit more real-time shading going on here, so this probably will never happen, at least not in this version of the game, but I’m keen to see what future games can eek out of the iPad!

The audio in both games isn’t great compared to PC or current console games, but I think the sampled sounds in NFS are slightly more engrossing and appropriate to the vehicles than the analogue-digital-computer-generated-dynamic-on-the-fly technique used in Real Racing, where they sound a bit weak in comparison.

The verdict

I’m shocked to be saying this, because I’m a sim fan at heart and totally loved Real Racing on the iPhone, but Need for Speed is actually a better race experience in the most important ways for a driving game – namely the actual driving and battling with other cars!

I wish it had online leagues or even better, proper online racing. I wish it had more variety of tracks. I wish it ran smoother. I wish it had a longer career. But at the end of the day I’m having more fun with NFS Shift than Real Racing… sorry Firemint!!

iPad games I’m looking at getting

So I got my iPad ordered for delivery on the 28th May!

Plenty of time to start deciding what games to get for it then 🙂

  1. Civilization Revolution
    Definately has to be done – can’t wait to try out touch controls on a decent screen size!
  2. Flight Control HD
    Not 100% sure about this one – I think I may have had my fix of Flight Control, but it does look rather nice.
  3. Castle Craft
    Looks like quite an interesting MMO City Builder – but not sure I need an ‘epic’ game like that on the Pad!
  4. Red Alert 3
    Didn’t get on with this on the iPhone due to the fiddly controls but it may just work on a 1024 x 768 screen! Need an RTS so this might have to be the one!?
  5. Sam & Max
    Didn’t even think for a second we would get anything like this! Depending on the price per episode of this adventure, I think it would play really nicely! I wonder if Monkey Island will be re-released in high-resolution!?
  6. Real Racing HD
    I had a real thing for Real Racing on iPhone (was 3rd fastest in the world for a good while until I stopped playing online leagues!) so might have to give this a bash as well!
  7. Pinball HD
    Looks awesome!
  8. Mirrors Edge
    Not really my sort of game any more but looks very slick. I just know I would get bored of it so this one can wait until it’s discounted.

Watch out for reviews as and when I get these (maybe) and others (for sure!)…

My Top 10 (or so) Gaming moments: Best games of all time, on all platforms

In this list I will try to identify the 10 best games from all my years of gaming. This isn’t the same criteria as my “Desert Island Discs” list – rather these are the BEST games that stick in my memory and may not really be ones I would go back to now or ever again… but defining games in the history of games development and my interest in the evolving genres.

Let’s start at the top!

  1. Monkey Island 2: LeChucks Revenge: (Graphic Adventure by Lucasarts – released 1991 – PC)
    As eluded to in my post about Point & Click Adventures, Monkey Island 2 has all of my heart and my most vivid and undoubtedly some of the best gaming memories! At the time the graphics were beautiful, the sounds so full of soul, the story so wonderfully written, the puzzles so fun and ingenious and the jokes so laugh out loud funny – I can remember it clearly to this day! Number 1 spot with no hesitation!!
  2. AV-8B Harrier Assault: (Flight Simulator by Simis – released 1992 – PC)
    I remember getting my first analogue joystick for this game and revelling in the fluid flight simulation that is AV8B Harrier Assault. You have to take control of a huge island using your aircraft and battleships. There were 2 parts to the game – the 1st person flying/mission running/tactics – and the top-view commander strategic side of planning the missions and assigning AI aircraft to various roles and missions. You could play the game exclusively as one or the other role or do a bit of both. The frame rate of the graphics was unbelievable (only recently matched with the latest hardware, what with all the emphasis on glossy graphics and lighting effect these days) which made flying the Harrier a real joy! And the depth of the mission planning and overall “big picture” of a dynamic war effort to take control of the island (based on a real location) gave it some serious ‘stickyness’! I was hooked, lined and sinkered!!
  3. Grand Prix 2: (Racing Simulator by Microprose & Geoff Crammond – released 1996 – PC)
    This sequel to the groundbreaking “Grand Prix” by Geoff Crammond was the first racing game that suceeded in my mind at actually being a realistic simulator of F1 racing. Accurate lap times, subtle effects that car setups had, tyre degradation,  real circuits, real teams and drivers – the whole atmosphere was totally convincing. I felt like a racing driver at home at last!! Because of this game I absolutely love racing sims now – my favourite genre by far – and I couldn’t wait to get back from school to play GP1. I learned the Monaco track inside out to the point where I could do a competitive lap literally with my eyes shut for the whole lap… Dad was impressed anyway 🙂   – funilly years later I watched an F1 build up show that showed Jenson Button (I think) doing just that i.e. imagining his way around the track (like bobsleigh dirivers) and being observed by his trainer… he can imagine a lap down to something like 0.2 seconds off what he would really be doing in the race, and it’s what all the best current F1 drivers can do!!! Maybe I could have made it!! :p
  4. GT Legends: (Racing Simulator by SimBin/10tacle Studios – released 2005 – PC)
    I just adored the cars chosen to be a part of this wonderful game – classic road cars from the 60’s an 70’s (The Alfa GTA was my out andf out favourite) – with all their lack of power, or lack of chassis sophistication to deal with too much power that they had (AC Cobra  😮  ), made each one feel and drive completely differently and made it a real challenge and ever so satisfying to learn the intricacies of each car enough to master them and start winning with them. It’s the first racing simulator that I had taken seriously online, getting in so many hours practice it scares me to think about it too long ;P
  5. Midi Maze: (First Person Shooter Multiplayer by Xanth Software F/X – released 1987 – Atari ST)
    Very early multiplayer game, linked 2 (or more) Atari ST’s together with a Midi cable, and introduced the concept of shooting your friends without hurting them!! The 3D graphics were simple, but the feeling was amazing – the knot in your stomach when you know you are being chased and just need to get round the next corner to be safe for a second, then quickly double back around a column or corridor and sneak up on his behind was incredible!
  6. Battlefield 2: (First Person Shooter Multiplayer by Dice – released 2005 – PC)
    Taking Midi Maze a few hundred steps further in every way – the feeling of being part of a bigger team at work, and relying on your team mates as much as they rely on you, was again a defining moment in my gaming history. What would we have done without the Internet!!??
  7. Half Life: (First Person Shooter by Valve – released 1998 – PC)
    They all do it now, but the first time you PLAYED THE INTRO(!) of a game, then suddenly found yourself with control was a jaw dropping moment! The rest of the game just flowed on seamlessly and it was just such a well scripted, paced and superbly written experience that really did change the face of gaming for good… for everyone!
  8. Starglider: (Arcade Space Flying by Argonaut Software – released 1986 – Atari ST)
    I still clearly remember this game purely because it was the first time I heard a computer talk to me with a realistic synthesised voice!! It was quite surreal – both my Dad and I were looking around the room to see where this voice could be coming from then realised it was the game LOL!! The intro music has a girl singing “Staaaarrrr Gliiiddeeerrr” repeatedly. I don’t think the game was all that great but it still sticks in my memory 😀
  9. Turbo Esprit: (Driving game by Durell – released 1986 – ZX Spectrum)
    Basically a Grand Theft Auto style game in a huge 3D city. You had to stop the bad guys from getting out of the city by cutting them off and dealing enough damage to stop them. The sense of freedom and the fact you had to stop for petrol and repairs was interesting – I played this for soooo long!!
  10. Test Drive III: The Passion: (Driving simulator by Accolade – released 1990 – PC)
    The first game release I was excited about (or even bothered to know anything about before I saw it on the shelves) was Test Drive 3. My friend had a PC that could play it becuase at the time I only had an Atari ST and this was “next-gen” gaming, so was never to be released on Atari, but I bought it anyway so I could take it round to his house to play together. It was truly epic at the time. Full 3D free roaming world. A choice of real sports cars with 3D shapes (woohooo!) and just a sandbox approach to driving. No races, or missions, or anything really to do as far as I remember. Just driving around slowly then caning it for the fun of it!! I treated each second like a real test drive and didn’t want ot damage the cars… stopping at all the junctions, not overtaking madly – then when you let it rip you really felt the power of those supercars 😀
  11. Spy vs. Spy: (Action game by First Star Software – released 1984 – ZX Specturm)
    Absolutely desparately needs a remake! This would be amazing as a modern day multiplayer game. I suppose the nearest thing we have currently is “The Ship” (a quality mod on the valve engine) – but it’s not really the same concept at all. The sneaky sneaky, frantic split-screen action was a breath of fresh air even then. Great visual style and attractive main characters… more like this please!
  12. Syndicate: (Real Time Strategy / RPG by Bullfrog Productions – released 1993 – PC)
    One of those games that was so ahead of it’s time in its scope, features, gameplay mechanics, depth, adult themes and graphics. But what would you expect from Peter Molyneux, one of a handful of truly genial game programmers. A re-imagining of Syndicate was on the cards but seems to have been shelved – which is a massive shame as I think the theme and setting would still get all generations of gamers interested all over again.
  13. Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle: (Graphic Adventure by Lucasarts – released 1993 – PC)
    It’s hard to compare DoTT to Monkey Island for me, as I have such a soft spot for MI in my heart – bu objectively I think it’s the most fun Graphic Adventure game ever made! If you are a youngster reading this… please, do yourself a favour and play it!! Dont scoff at the graphics – they are cartoony anyway so have aged very well – but you will see how games are MEANT to be done when you are sucked in to the whacky world of Bernard, Laverne and Hoagie. The underlying concept of time travel is handled so superbly it just makes me weep that with all the money and creative power we should be able to summon up these days, we seem to be going backwards in almost all areas apart from graphics and audio 😦

Please send your replies in the form below and tell us your ultimate gaming moments! I would love to reminisce and hear your stories 🙂

Apple iPad for gaming

I must admit I am seriously tempted to get myself one of these!

I think I have the will power to wait until maybe the 2nd generation of hardware, or at least until some bigger and better games are released as iPad versions before I take the plunge!! But at the same token I might just succumb to it’s charms and get one anyway 😉

The only games specifically for it at the time of writing this, that I would be interested in, are Flight Control HD and Real Racing HD (both by Firemint) but I don’t think it’s worth it for those!

If they made a Civilization Revolution to fit the native screen resolution and full 3D, I think that would just about swing the deal for me! … uh oh! Ummm… it is available already! 2D but, damn!!! 😀

So, how much are they again?!