Archive for the ‘Adventure’ Category

Gaming on Apple’s mobile devices has often been dissed for being too basic or gimmicky.  For the most part, that is a relatively accurate statement primarily because the target audience is the casual player.  Take for instance, Sunside’s Crow, a stunning visual extravaganza that attempts to deliver a story-driven action adventure.  A wonderfully beautiful game that takes full advantage of the processing power of the new iPad, the game focuses more on an immersive experience than on the actual gameplay.  Depending on your personal taste, that may just be enough to satisfy.

As the title suggests, it can be pretty much assumed that you’ll be playing a crow.  Crows may not be the bird of choice for many, but they are one of the smartest.  For the most part, let’s just say the intelligence of the crow in this game will rely heavily on your focus and intelligence.  Other times, your intelligence may have you questioning the gameplay.  Crow is a story-driven game where players maneuver your feathered friend through a number of obstacles, collect items, and learn and build skills all with the overall goal of defeating some strangely maniacal bosses.

Visually speaking, Crow is one of the most, if not the most, amazingly gorgeous games in the iTunes store.  The devs have created an engaging fantasy world that doesn’t disappoint.  From flying high above isolated fields and snowy mountaintops to swooping through dark caverns and ducking monsters, Crow is visually fantastic.  Running this on the latest iPad, the animations are crisp and smooth, and accompanied by a terrifically atmospheric soundtrack, the devs would seemingly have the makings of a great experience on their hands.  The 3D imagery, texturing and shadowing is simply top notch, providing a degree of realism that shows how far the iPad has come over the years.

The controls are relatively easy on paper and involve touching in the direction to move, drag to steer and tap to stop.  The reality is these types of controls tend to obscure the screen which isn’t ideal, but certainly work.

Along the way, you’ll come across a number of storypoints that provide a bit of narrative text that can be revisited at any time.  Don’t worry too much about the storyline because for the most part, it doesn’t make too much sense.  Part of the game involves collecting gems which can then be used to acquire and upgrade skills such as regeneration, efficiency and protection.  Later on during boss battles, the game provides gesture controls which involve swiping to attack and drawing a circle to block and shield.

When it comes to the gameplay in Crow, it will almost certainly be a mixed bag for many players.  The game is a combination of on and off rail elements that in general work well, but can also be repetitive.  Exploration is part of the allure of Crow, and as expected, the free roam aspect is core to “soaring in the sky”.  This aspect of the game is more passive in that you can take your time to look for gems, review storypoints and in general, fly around the various environments.  The on-rail component occurs in the battle scenes where for the most part, you’re automatically directed through the level.  Of course, there is a bit of decision-making and quick reflexes in these sections since they involve initiating and dodging attacks.

A gold orb gradually charges up and once fully charged, you tap the orb and use touch gestures to attack or defend.  The action is simple enough since you swipe across the boss or circle the screen, but over the course of the game, this can become tedious especially when you miss.  What happens is that the crow will repeat the same course along the same path to make another pass.  Again, this on-rails aspect felt flat because there didn’t seem to be much variety.  The boss fights which should’ve been much bigger became more of a missed opportunity for the game.

Along the way, you’ll also unlock Challenge levels which involve reflex-intense gameplay and leverage the skills learned along the way.  These levels are available to play outside of the story-driven campaign, and generally, they’re mini-games designed to keep your skills in check.

Honestly, the gameplay by itself can feel one-dimensional, and the imaginative world in Crow really does most of the work in keeping players engaged.  As mentioned, the ability to roam is Crow’s biggest gameplay strength, but keep in mind that the free roam areas aren’t particularly large.  What you have there is good and you’ll want to explore as much as you can.  Crow also offers GameCenter support and achievements which adds to the overall game.

Crow is an imaginative action adventure game presented in easily one of the best looking visual experiences you’ll come across.  For many, however, the gameplay while adequate is not on par with the visuals.  Combining on rails and free roam elements, Crow provides a decent game, but check your expectations at the door if you’re looking for more than a visual experience.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (one of the best looking visual experiences in iTunes gaming; smooth animation and graphics with a good degree of realism; mixed bag when it comes to decent gameplay but also feels like a missed opportunity; on and off rail elements complement each other, but depth may be a turnoff; GameCenter support and achievements)

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What would you get if you combined the adventure and exploration of Zelda with the arcade antics of Mario Bros?  You’d likely get Touch Foo’s Swordigo, a wonderfully fun and surprisingly deep platformer that ranks as one of the best of the genre to date on the iOS.  Filled with puzzles, quests and of course battles, Swordigo is an impressive game incorporated in a vast world with a good dose of RPG elements.

Set in the village of Cairnwood, the main character in Swordigo is an apprentice who finds himself thrust into the role of hero after his master is killed by the Corruptors, an evil legion intent on conquest.  Throughout the adventure, quests and battles will take you through worlds where locating treasure is just the tip of the peasant iceberg.

An effective platformer is often able to create a world that not only engages the player, but also provides a lasting effect.  Presented in 2.5D, the world in Swordigo has a unique charm and allure that takes on a life of its own.  From lighting effects to textures, each of the environments is filled with details that help the game stand on its own.  Running this on an iPad, the animation is smooth with good sense of depth.  Whether it’s the isolation of an abandoned castle or simply the wind blowing through the trees, Swordigo is one of charm and allure.

Of course, the hack and slash nature of the battle scenes make Swordigo even better.  The control scheme is pretty straightforward with left and right buttons for movement and action buttons for such things as jumping, sword hacking and slashing, moving/holding items, and conjuring magic spells. The button placement is customizable, and you’ll likely want to move the hack and slash button away a bit from the jump button which can inadvertently be hit.

Swordigo has an intuitive inventory system to keep track of acquired items as well as RPG elements.  From this area, players can also keep track of quests which are presented as conversations.

Something that sets Swordigo apart from the typical platformer is how the game is presented.  Unlike other platformers which are broken into different levels, Swordigo is one giant world presented at your footsteps for discovery.  For the player, this firmly and effectively establishes that feeling of mystery and exploration.  As levels are completed, other areas and places are revealed.

The RPG elements are another area that not only provides another layer of complexity to the game, but helps balance out the flow of the gameplay.    These elements focus on Health, Sword, and Magic.  For Health, you can increase longevity which will come in handy as the levels become more complex and difficult.  Sword boosts the damage inflicted on enemies.  Magic, which is represented by a meter in the HUD and gradually recharges after each use, can be recharged faster with allocating more points to this element.  The elements are easily customizable and designed with the casual gamer in mind within a user-friendly screen.

In Swordigo’s world, adventure is core to the enjoyment of the game.  Players will find plenty to explore.  Crystal shards can be acquired along the way which can be used to purchase health potions and weapons from the village store.  In addition, health and magic potions can also be found on the journey by destroying enemies, but also on occasion from cutting down plants.

Speaking of enemies, there are more than enough dangers lurking.  The living and breathing ones include a variety of giant grass spiders, cave crawlers, man-eating snapper plants, boulder shooting tortoises, and spike-laden turtles among others.

The bosses themselves can be pretty ruthless, and given the way the “levels” are presented in Swordigo, can appear at the most surprising times.  With names such as Szan the Angry, Boulder the Golem, Zak the Bandit Leader, and Edogani the Deadly, these battles are intensely satisfying.

The world in Swordigo is begging for exploration with plenty of nooks and crannies for doing just that.  Treasure chests are located throughout, but most of the time, they’re well hidden, requiring a bit of digging.  In fact, you’ll find yourself at the end of a particular adventure quicker than expected and then turning around to locate your booty.  That’s the beauty of Swordigo—often, the simplest path isn’t the well chosen path.

While the game is designed so that it can be completed without the deeper exploration, most will find these hidden rewards worth the risk.  These treasures can range from more powerful swords and spells to tools and gadgets that make advancing much easier.  Players may even discover RPG elements within these areas so they’re definitely worth checking out.  For example, players will come across a chamber covered in purple slime that requires the dragon grasp spell.  Other times, more powerful spells such as missile and bomb spells supplement your arsenal.

As is typical with other platformers, there are side quests to be found.  Swordigo does a nice job of integrating other characters that provide advice and warnings along the way.  Other times, they can rather mundane and harmless.

The environments themselves are full of hidden doorways, switches, pressure plates, and moving platforms.  Often what you’ll find which players may find challenging and frustrating in the good sense is a locked door after making it through a dangerous set of obstacles.  Wouldn’t you know that the key happens to be located back on the other side of the obstacles?  Beyond the living and breathing enemies, the obstacles add to the character and enjoyment of Swordigo.  From swinging axes to randomly appearing spikes, getting through in one piece is a lot tougher than it looks.

Swordigo also incorporates a portal system so players can travel from one area to another relatively quickly.  This makes the treasure hunting process much more feasible for those of us who don’t have the patience of taking the long and treacherous way.

The gameplay in Swordigo is its core strength, and the fluid controls and the depth of the content are significant.  With plenty of areas to explore in its vast world, the hack and slash nature of the game give Swordigo the makings of an enduring classic.  As you level up your character, there’s a nice balance in the difficulty.  The sword wielding battles are both challenging and intense, but the game doesn’t insult your intelligence.  Players will face decisions in the path well chosen as well as logically solving puzzles and collecting the right pieces to do so.  Other times, success and failure comes to down to well-coordinated timing from jumping platforms to sword-blocking attacks.

Swordigo also has GameCenter and Openfeint scoreboards and if the depth of the game by itself isn’t enough, achievements.  Most players will likely forgo the achievements in the near term with the sole purpose of completing the game.

The game isn’t perfect, and these are more minor issues than game breaking ones.  For one, the checkpoint system seems a little awkward which is noticeable after your little apprentice hero is dispatched and then magically reappears.  There are times where it almost feels like you have to start the entire world over or simply dropped off at some random point.  On that note and not that I’m complaining, there isn’t a penalty for the apprentice hero’s demise which almost makes the game too easy for some because he regenerates with full health and collected crystal shards intact.  Visually speaking, during attacks on enemies, an oversized health and level-up status bars appears which can be distracting.  Finally, one potential annoyance is the ongoing beep when you’re running low on health which is similar to the tone found in some vehicles when you leave the keys in the ignition.

Swordigo is a deep and intense platformer combining strategic RPG elements within a charming adventure.  Effectively presented as a vast and mysterious world, Swordigo provides a graphically wonderful presentation with satisfying battles and exploration that should entice novices and advance players alike, keeping them engaged for hours.

Albie Meter: 5 Stars (one of the best platformers available on the iOS with hours of content and gameplay; plethora of nooks and crannies worth exploring; simple, yet customizable controls; user-friendly RPG elements should appeal to all skill levels; GameCenter and Openfeint support)

Out here in Silicon Valley, we’re often referred to as the wine drinking class because of our laid back culture.  Be that as it may, we do forget to smell the roses and enjoy what we have.  That could probably be said for Tiger Style Games’ Waking Mars, a sci-fi themed atmospheric, open world adventure where you’ll enjoy the journey more than the ultimate destination.  It’s an experience that provides hours of exploration, experimentation and finally exultation as you rediscover alien life on a once barren planet.

Now if you’ve had the opportunity to enjoy Tiger Style Games’ previous iOS release Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor, then you know not to expect the typical type of gaming experience.  Waking Mars is all about discovering the unknown as players control and make decisions that affect the ecosystem on the Red Planet.  And is it ever the experience…

The story begins with OCTO, a robot lander that has gone missing during its mission.  Dr. Liang Qi is the astronaut who not only has gone in search of OCTO, but has the overarching objective to learn as much about the planet as possible.  He also has the help of fellow scientist Dr. Amani Ronga and AI sidekick Art.

Waking Mars is not your typical animation heavy, massive explosion, shoot’em type game.  In fact, many may be deceived into thinking that this is a low quality production.  Far from it.  Players will discover relatively quickly how expansive this alien world is and be glad they took the risk.

Visually, the underworld landscapes are beautiful, yet convey the sadness and isolation of a once thriving world.  The storyline is presented through text dialogue and a somewhat quirky series of headshots reminiscent of stills you’d see over a webcam.  The game has three levels of difficulty: casual, normal and hard.

Liang’s movements are controls relatively straightforward.  Tap and hold at the spot to move Liang across the landscape.  He does a jetpack to maneuver through the depths and this is activated by holding your finger on the screen.  In general, activating the jetpack can take some practice in terms of landing accuracy, but the learning curve is relatively minimal.

The fun begins in the caverns deep underground teaming with hidden life forms and beautiful, yet potentially hazardous formations.  But, Waking Mars wouldn’t be as engaging without the life forms and the environmental obstacles.  To be frank, it’s that sense of wonder that differentiates this game from others.  Going from cavern to cavern, decisions have a far reaching impact on the ecosystem.  As you discover new organisms, you soon realize that your power to alter and fundamentally change the ecosystem.

A digital lab book tracks the different species as they’re discovered covering everything from habitat and diet to reproduction and vulnerabilities.  Of course most of this information isn’t available until you discover it so experimentation is core to your survival.  The one annoying aspect of the lab book is the Twitter button, mostly because I kept on hitting hit it.   I don’t know if people would actually tweet about the different life forms, but it’s there if you decide to do so.  A map is also included that charts the explored caverns within the exploration sites.

The Martian landscape consists of different terrains as different as the many organisms that inhabit this world.  In order to progress and unlock (for lack of a better term) other areas, you’ll need to meet the biomass requirements that for example destroy the hardy life forms known as Cerebranes which block off entry to new caverns.  Meeting these biomass requirements is where experimentation comes into play.

A variety of life forms exist mostly in the form of zoa.  There are different types each with their own characteristics and attributes.  For example, the most basic and beneficial is the Halid Zoa which not only provides seeds for food to alien forms such as the Phyta, but also repair damage to Liang’s health.  You’ll find that most of the zoa are seed spitters while others secrete chemical nutrients.  Who said exploration wouldn’t be messy?

The Martian landscape is not without its risks as acid pools and drips litter the caverns as well as magma baths and fireballs.  Falling stalactites as well as eroded rocks are other obstacles that require attention.  While certain zoa are beneficial, there are also life forms that can harm Liang such as the Prax Zoa who have a vicious bit or the long tendril Larians, predators looking for their next snack.

Waking Mars forces players to experiment and determine solutions to puzzles based on the interactions of these organisms.  Whether it’s planting seeds or feeding one alien to another, these choices are what make the game that much more engaging.  As Liang travels the depths, different objectives are provided that start out rather easily but become more complex.  A nice option and excuse to explore are the optional objectives which allow further exploration.  Seed gathering is core to a lot of the dilemmas that players will face, and it can become a bit tedious in the later chapters.

During the game, it’s worth noting that the soundtrack plays an integral part in setting the mood.  As you wander through the caverns and go deeper into the origins of Mars, the storyline unfolds rather nicely, and beyond the periodic communications with Amani, the sense of isolation and discovery feels real.  I literally sat there for hours on this journey, and was still thinking about it well afterwards.

GameCenter achievements are also included which mostly consist of discovering new life forms and the game automatically saves your last activity.

Waking Mars is one of those rare games that will stick with you well after you’re done playing it.  A game full of depth figuratively and literally speaking, Waking Mars taps into our curiosity which ultimately provides a wonderful experience.  The drive to explore, experiment and build is all the satisfaction you’ll need.

Albie Meter: 5 Stars (deserves more than 5 stars based on the depth and long gameplay alone; atmospheric adventure where exploration and experimentation are the name of the game; open-ended world with unique puzzles; intuitive controls although the jetpack feature can be temperamental; soundtrack complements the sense of exploration and isolation)

“It fits like a glove” is something that can’t often be said about video games and the many platforms out there.  Too many variables come into play that can tip the playing experience for better or for worse.  In the case of Incoboto by Fluttermind’s Dene Carter, I couldn’t imagine this amazing and unique game being more well-suited than it is on the iPad.  Most players will not only feel at with this beautiful puzzle adventure, they’ll have an equally wondrous time of discovery.

In the spirit of the Mayan prophecy, the theme in Incoboto is one of devastation and ultimately rebirth and takes the player through an unfolding storyline.  Journeying through a number of worlds each with its own intriguing qualities, Inco is the little guy who leaves his own world to not only save other worlds but also for any survivors.  Within the galaxy, all the suns have been extinguished except for one named Helios and the responsibility lies with Inco to feed him.

The journey takes place in a galaxy through 16 star systems each full of obstacles and puzzles that need to be solved in order to secure the life source—Starpieces—Helios depends to stay bright.  Charming in nature, the environments and the soundtrack make Incoboto one of those games that will both relax and engage you.

The intuitive touch controls take full advantage of the iPad and in general work remarkably well.  To move Inco, press the spot where you want to move him.  If you feel more comfortable, players can also switch to the directional keypad.  Another basic control is jumping which Inco will do plenty of and is as simple as tapping and sliding anywhere on the screen.  Inco can also carry and drop items which are designated during the game, and throwing is achieved by dragging a line from Inco toward the target and releasing.

Visually, Incoboto provides an eye appealing galaxy full of worlds waiting to be explored.  The obstacles are many with lots of depth and animation.  If you’ve played Soosiz, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what you’re in for as you travel around each world.

While Incoboto is a game, each planet is a microcosm of the issues we face in the real world.  The Corporation has destroyed the environment, and many of the issues that Inco faces have been created to prevent progress in addressing them.  Each level consists of several small planets that Inco travels and navigates between.   Players will initially use gravity beams and jetpacks and later on evolve into more tricky devices such as grappling hooks and teleports.

The puzzles themselves do require a bit of exploration and coordinated moves as the solutions aren’t necessarily obvious or intuitive.  As with any platformer, there’s a plethora of moving parts, switches and items that unlock hidden areas and allow players to progress further.  Whether reachable by cranes or ledges, Starpieces are often located in less than easy to reach areas and often I found myself switching between the tap-to-move scheme to the directional keypad to improve movement accuracy.

The game feels linear in nature because Sungates open up once objectives are met within each level.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing because you’ll want to spend some time exploring the various worlds.  You’ll often come across an object such as a switch that is seemingly so out of reach and have you scratching your head.  The details are worth checking out simply because there are so many ways to interact with the environment.  And while many may want to rush through the game, Incoboto is one that should be savored.

Along the way, Inco is reminded of the Corporation via monitors activated by touch.  The messages can be ominous, and most serve as warnings of things to come.  The game feels balanced as the puzzles gradually become more difficult and test your logic and decision making skills.

Incoboto has GameCenter and OpenFeint support which provides for a variety of achievements.

Incoboto’s satisfying experience is one that many will enjoy because it evokes that sense that while the galaxy may be large, everything is connected in some way.  That may sound strange to talk about a game in that sense, but once you start playing, “there’s no place like home” will likely ring true.

Albie Meter: 5 Stars (imaginative game in an equally imaginative world; engaging gameplay that will have many rushing to complete it and disappointed once it finally ends; unique levels along with intuitive controls; well balanced difficulty)

“When you control the mail, you control information!”  -Newman, Seinfeld “The Lip Reader”, Season 5

No other Seinfeld saying so succinctly spells out the humor and craziness you get with Ayopa Game’s Mailmen.  While the dull sounding name may give you the wrong impression, Mailmen is a real-time, yet slow-paced puzzler that will put your strategic planning skills to the test.  Engaging at times, Mailmen is full of personality putting a different spin on going postal (sorry couldn’t resist).  The primary shortcoming is the control system which is not as intuitive as you’d like and hampers the otherwise fun gameplay.

Presented in a top-down view, the game focuses on three mailmen in the town of Greenville—Johnny, Charlie and Dave—and your mission is to help them complete their daily tasks.  These tasks involve everything from picking up and delivering packages to rescuing fellow mailmen while navigating around villains (who knew) and of course, guard dogs.  While the premise sounds straightforward, the devs have added an entertaining layer of puzzles and scenarios that require quick thinking and teamwork.

Visually, Mailmen is a good looking game with vibrant colors and runs smoothly on the iPad.  Speaking of Seinfeld, the animation and graphics have a decidedly “King of the Hill” feel to them.  For those who are (gulp) too young to remember, “King of the Hill” was an animated comedy about a suburban family and their mundane life.  The characters in Mailmen are just as likable and come with their own special “mailman” abilities which frighteningly are all plausible.

Behind the story-driven 18 levels comes a neat little world that Johnny, Charlie and Dave will face.  The neighborhood blocks and objectives start out small, but they gradually get bigger and more obstacle-filled as the game progresses.  Objectives are presented by the mailmen’s boss through a series of speech bubbles at the beginning of each stage.  Stars with a maximum of three are awarded based on objectives completed, packages picked up/delivered, avoiding dog bites, and time to completion.  With each 3-star rating, a stamp is awarded and stored in the Stamp album.

Each of the mailmen has special abilities which players can use to protect the sanctity of mail delivery.   Johnny is a reckless driver who is equally adept at sprinting as he is an expert at dog tying using his ropes.  Dave is a rotund yet heavy lifting dude who is also a master of disguise in terms of dressing up as a fire hydrant.  And last but not least is Charlie, the rookie who uses tennis balls to distract while using his athleticism to climb trees.

While the mailmen, um, have their abilities, they will face their most hated enemy—the dog.  (There’s also a rogue ex-postal worker by the name of Newman).  Not all dogs are the same, and players will need to plan accordingly.

Chihuahua—smallest yet has the most annoying bark and easy to outrun

German shepherd—usually sleeping but are fast and can do damage with their bite

Beagle—long range vision who is good at alerting other dogs

Doberman—poor vision but the fastest and hardest chomper of the bunch

Bulldog—ruthless biter with decent speed

Rottweiler—wicked bite with the ability to free tied up dogs

Mastiff—one bite can put the mailmen on disability

Robodog—radar-like vision impervious to deception and difficult to tie down

The gameplay in Mailmen is actually pretty creative with some levels being very complex and elaborate.  Think of a maze with a number of traps and that tells you what game is all about.  The visual range of dogs varies and part of the game involves using stealth tactics.  This can involve hiding behind crates, climbing up trees and using plain old good timing to stay out of the way of dogs.  Others can require using fellow mailmen as decoys (e.g. throwing tennis balls or drawing their attack) while the other sneaks up from behind to disable the dog.  Because of the size of the neighborhoods and the multiple tasks, guide arrows are provided to show where key locations and tasks are.

The dogs are loud and annoying and you’d be amazed at the level of stress as they approach.  Part of the game forces you to calm down, or at least you better if you’re to complete the objectives.  Besides the special abilities of each mailman, each is equipped with an air horn which is useful for disorienting attacking dogs.

Mailmen also has GameCenter achievements and leaderboards so in addition to achieving gold stars, there is a degree of replay value.

The controls in Mailmen deliver (no pun intended) mixed results.  To move characters, the game uses a tap-to-move scheme where tapping a spot will move a character to that area.  This control set up works well, but does significantly slow down the pace of the game.  A minor issue in general, but a bidirectional pad or control arrows would be a welcome addition.

The other control mechanic worth mentioning is in selecting specific characters because it can be confusing and not intuitive.  Mailmen are presented as tiles in the upper right corner of the screen.  Here, strength levels are also presented so players can monitor how much longer a mailman can afford to take dog attacks.  In order to select one, players must tap the icon to make him the active character.  The issue occurs when you’re maneuvering and need to switch between characters because you will likely move the wrong character.  While you do get comfortable with that mechanic, the scheme still feels a bit awkward especially when quick moves are involved.  An alternative and more intuitive character selection scheme that hopefully will be incorporated in future updates is simply double tapping a character to make him active.

Because the neighborhoods can be large, there are plenty of areas to explore and locate hidden items.  The game allows players to change views by dragging the screen to move across and pinching to zoom.  However, a minor shortcoming is that a camera icon must be tapped to rotate the screen. Again, while only a minor issue, it can feel a little clunky.

Overall, the controls aren’t as smooth or intuitive as they could be, and can even be frustrating as the levels become more complex.  But, if you’re looking for a challenging game with cartoony characters and a bit of personality within a slower paced package, Mailmen is that game.  Quirky, yet slow paced…just like the real USPS.

Albie Meter:  4 Stars (fun and personality-laden animation and story-driven game with complex levels; offers a good degree of challenge requiring well-timed moves and planning; control scheme can be clunky and feel awkward; slow paced format with some replay value)

The iOS has grown significantly as a gaming platform because of its broad appeal to casual gamers.  Most notably are point-and-click adventure games because of the inherent advantages that come with the touch interface.   One such game is The Tiny Bang Story by Colibri Games which combines a variety of elements including point-and-click, hidden items and mini puzzles to create a whimsical gaming experience.  A game that tests the powers of observation and deductive reasoning, Tiny Bang is a charming little world that gamers will want to check out even though the stop may only be a brief one.

The story though only surface deep involves a world called Tiny Planet, a tranquil and relaxing place that one day gets blown to pieces by an asteroid.  The objective is to rebuild this wonderful place by locating pieces and solving puzzles among the different environments before putting everything back in their rightful places.

Tiny Bang is all about the experience which in this case is about the peaceful confines.  The Myst-like atmosphere doesn’t force players to adhere to time limits or rush through puzzles for a solution.  As a matter of fact, it’s about taking the time to enjoy what you’re doing at your own pace.  The backdrops are beautiful to look at which is a good thing since you’ll spend your time staring at them.  The scenes are creative and imaginative in the world they present.  The soundtrack (which can be downloaded for free at www.colibrigames.com) establishes that pace with an almost hypnotically calming tone that accompanies players through the various scenes.

The game itself is broken up into 5 chapters each containing a number of puzzles and hidden objects.  While this is not a heavily animated game, the scenes are amazingly detailed and as wonderful as the soundtrack.  The devs have created a charming world that players will enjoy even while they’re scouring the scenes for hidden pieces.

Besides the great scenery which looks great on an iPad, what distinguishes Tiny Bang from other games in the genre is the presentation.  The first thing players will notice is lack of text.  There isn’t any during gameplay which forces players to observe and assume.  Literally, the puzzles run the gamut from simply finding and collecting pieces to solving logic brainteasers.  The scope of puzzles is varied so that shouldn’t be an issue.  One puzzle involves hand-coordinated movements, while others involve aligning items to access another area.  Others require a bit more reasoning and logic such as solving math-related riddles or shutting off valves to turn off flowing water.  Each of the individual puzzles by themselves isn’t overly difficult, but figuring out where and how to apply the solutions can be.

A series of tiles appear that show items and the number of them that need to be found.  This series will change as players come upon different scenarios.  Collecting pieces is done simply by tapping on them, while dragging them to desired areas will put them into use.

Once that’s done, then players are further confronted with those “solutions” in order to continue on.  For example, one puzzle involves collecting bottles of glue and then determining where to apply that glue which then opens up another puzzle.  In this situation, it’s a puzzle that requires assembling a picture from a number of assorted pieces.  Players will often be collecting pieces in order to find others which only open up other scenes and mysteries to address.  Making observations and reading between the lines…that’s really what makes Tiny Bang so engaging.

The game isn’t without clues, and this goes back to how Tiny Bang is presented.  There is a hint button and a view button that offer subtle visual clues such as highlighting areas that can be accessed.  Also, while traveling through Tiny Planet, players will meet the residents this world.  Tapping on them brings up a thought bubble with a clue on how to move on.  The personality of the game shines through in those interactions.

While the use of visual cues over text is what forms the personality and charm of the game, it can also be frustrating.  Billed as a relaxing environment, figuring out what to do next can be challenging to say the least.  The hint system is bare bones and fairly limited which means outside of solving a puzzle or locating a walkthrough online, you’re stuck.  The characters that players meet are one-dimensional which I think is a missed opportunity to further expand the game.  In some ways, the storyline could’ve also been utilized a bit more to provide more depth to the game in general.  I’d estimate that the game would provide a few hours of play but not much replayability which is typical of this genre.

Tiny Bang is a great looking game that brings its own personality to the genre.  The puzzles and brainteasers are varied and aren’t overly difficult by themselves.  The beautiful soundtrack and wonderfully detailed environments make Tiny Bang a worthwhile experience.

Albie Meter:  4 Stars (personality-laden puzzler presented through great soundtrack and visuals; varied puzzles not overly difficult, but lack of hint system can be frustrating; relaxing, self-paced game with no time limits; should provide a few hours of play with limited replay value; iPad only with a lite version also available)

Since the early days of the iTunes store, Gameloft has been one of the early innovators in bringing a wide array of games to the iOS audience. In that time, the company has had its share of critics—most of it undeserved—from a rather fickle audience. However, I’d be hard pressed to find any criticisms about its latest release The Adventures of Tintin, arguably the most beautiful game in the store. From the intelligent intermingling of game elements and controls to the high-production 3D animation and lively soundtrack, Tintin is a complete game overflowing with charm and personality.

For those not familiar with Tintin, you’re in for a treat. Tintin is a cub reporter where the story always finds him. In the game, Tintin is on the trail to discover the secret of the Unicorn, a journey that will take him—and you—halfway across the world. In addition to playing as Tintin, you also play his dog Snowy, Captain Haddock and Sir Francis Haddock. Now, if you’re familiar with Gameloft titles such as Dungeon Hunter and Hero of Sparta, then you’ll feel somewhat at home with Tintin. As you travel with Tintin, you’ll collect coins that can be used to purchase access to puzzles. In addition, puzzle pieces appear along the way that you’ll use to solve puzzles.

The primary control in Tintin is a control stick which is used to navigate. Depending on the scene, action/situational buttons such as run and stealth appear. Because of the variety in the puzzles and scenes, touch functionality is also included as well as accelerometer controls. In general, the controls are spot on and relatively intuitive to use which should make the game widely accessible to younger players.

One of the great things about Tintin is the assortment of puzzles which involves switching between the various characters. It’s almost a microcosm of the games in the iTunes store. There are various parts in Tintin where it’s very much a platformer as you navigate through certain scenarios. Other times, logic is the objective where you cut crates in a specific sequence to open boxes or eliminate pirates. The sword scenes with Captain Haddock are engaging since moves—attack, block, dodge—are executed via swipes on the screen.

While there is an assortment of puzzles and brain teasers, they aren’t overly challenging nor taxing. In fact, they tended to be on the easy side, but since this is a game aimed at the younger set, so this can be forgiven. The same goes for the fight scenes where I found that various attacks and movement could be accomplished successfully without much accuracy on my part. On the other hand, Tintin uses nice little touches to keep you engaged such as making players wipe fog of the window to get a better view.

Having said that, Tintin is a game of exploration, and it’s remarkable what Gameloft accomplished. The 3D animation is extremely well done. Characters and background scenes are beautifully illustrated, and the use of 3D and shadowing effectively adds depth to each scene. Someone even commented to me that they didn’t realize I was playing a game. As with these types of games, static comic book scenes and cinematic pages commonly used to tell the story, and Tintin is no different. Loading times are creatively replaced by these scenes so mostly they aren’t an issue especially for those who are impatient.

The voiceovers in general are more than decent, but the soundtrack for me really adds to the charm of the game. Typically, I turn down a game’s background music over time because of the irritation factor. However, I’d recommend leaving the music on during gameplay because it provides just the right touch.

Even with the large file size and the high-quality graphics and animation, I didn’t experience much lag on my iPad. On occasion, voiceovers didn’t sync correctly along with some stuttering in the animation, but nothing that took away from the game.

Depending on your age and level of experience, Tintin will likely not have much replay value. Most games with a film-in tend to be very linear, and that’s what you’ll get with Tintin. There’s no digression allowed in the game and scenes and puzzles come as they are. But, the game does provides plenty of content requires hours of play to complete. For me, I completed the game in roughly 8 hours over several days, but I was thoroughly entertained during that time.

Tintin is a wonderful game that should appeal to players young and old. Gameloft has produced a benchmark game especially for those with a film tie-in. If this doesn’t satisfy critics, I don’t think anything will. Capturing the personality and whimsy of the movie and its characters, Tintin comes highly recommended.

Albie Meter: 4.5 Stars (high-quality game with visuals that will keep you entertained for hours when you’re not showing it off; broad audience appeal with diverse puzzles and game elements; limited replay value with puzzles geared towards a younger audience)