Archive for the ‘Shooter’ Category

One of the great things about the iTunes store is the seemingly endless game releases each week. Of course, there are only so many hours in the day so finding the better games came be a chore. Fortunately, a mostly terrific game by GameLab launched this week that goes by the name of Lock ‘n’ Load, a content-rich twin-stick shooter that looks and plays as its name suggests. Aside from a questionable in-game currency system, LnL is an engaging experience driven by some really great visuals and humorous voice overs.

First off, if you’re a fan of classic horror movies, LnL doesn’t disappoint. The devs obviously love their flesh eating zombies, homicidal maniacs, freaky clowns and murderous temperamental females. These enemies if you can call them that are a tour de force when it comes to scaring people until they wet their pants. Speaking of murderous females, the storyline centers around an evil girl who dreams of conquering the world by creating her own equally evil and super bad army. While not completely original, the storyline progressively unfolds throughout which I think provides that intangible known as personality to the game.

The hero is equally as maniacal complete with goalie mask but in a good way. If it weren’t for the other hockey mask-wearing psychopaths, our hero would probably qualify since he has that distinct Jason Voorhees trademark look down pat. Along with a spunky wheelchair bound Grandma, the hero is a retiree whose anger is set off by these maniacs stomping through his garden. Already sounds like your typical Charles Bronson movie, right?

Visually, LnL is a great looking game presented with high-resolution 3D animation and equaled only by its awesomely cheesy voice acting. The various rooms and environments are beautifully rendered and pop off the iPad screen. The shadowing and texturing are well done and provide a good feeling of depth. The colors are vibrant and the characters come off looking polished and unpolygon-like which is all you can ask for when talking monsters.

For a game of this type, LnL has a pretty decent amount of content consisting of a 16-level campaign in the main storyline, and an additional nine-level Call of the Minions campaign and six challenge maps. Offered with Normal and Hard modes, there are about 32 enemy types and a good arsenal of weapons that would make Soldier of Fortune proud.

The game has a questionable currency system where money is accumulated by killing enemies (which I’ll explain later), and challenge maps are unlocked through a combination of cash and picking up Gifts. These Gifts are hidden throughout the levels in the main campaign, and you need to pick up 3 Gifts to unlock the challenge maps. LnL has some upgrades in terms of weapons and health that can be acquired through normal gameplay as well as IAP. I found the IAP relatively non-intrusive if you’re willing to grind through the main campaign and challenge maps, but you’ll see later there are problems. Also, the Call of Minions campaign is unlocked once you have enough cash, but you can also acquire the cash reserves through the IAP.

If you’re into dressing up Jason, I mean your hero, there are different skins or outfits that can be purchased with the cash you’ve accumulated. Again, these can also be purchased via IAP (gotta love enterprising devs!).

The gameplay in LnL is what you would expect with a dual-stick shooter, although it’s still very entertaining. The enemies aren’t easy to kill and they are relentless. From the crow unleashing Scarecrow to the pumpkin grenade tossing Mr. Pumpkin Head, there’s a certain respect you develop for the devs in what they throw at you. The boss fights are pretty challenging as well. There’s even one in particular involving a giant octopus aptly named Octo who you try to kill in a swimming pool. Don’t get me started with the mini-gauntlet where your hero attempts to pick up some LnL cash and goodies while being chased by a giant pumpkin head.

Besides that, you’ll face a good amount of other challenges. One for instance is the Ring of Fire where your hero is encircled by fire that moves along with him even as he kills enemies. The catch of course is to keep your hero from touching the fire while dodging and lodging attacks. Otherwise, it’s an instant end for all that’s concerned.

The controls work well and consist of a d-pad for moving and another for shooting which allows for simultaneous moving and shooting. Weapons that are available appear as buttons around the weapons control d-pad which are easily accessed on screen. A slight hitch is that it can be easy to accidentally switch weapons since the buttons are located close to the d-pad. A health gauge tracks the battle worthiness of your hero and handy button shows how much health potion is available in case your hero needs a boost.

The level design is rather well thought out because a certain degree of exploration is involved. Outside of blasting away at enemies, a lot of nooks and crannies exist which make them fair game for hiding cash and Gifts. Your hero will venture through graveyards, mansions and towns each of which have just the right amount of eeriness. In the Campaign mode, certain entrances are locked, and you must clear out sections of all enemies before you gain access. Certain sections within levels involve capturing the necessary number of items while dodging and killing enemies. Others are almost mini-survival levels where the enemies relentlessly attack.

To add another layer of variety, your sidekick Grandma is sometimes thrown into the mix. Her old age and wheelchair may be deceiving, but she packs quite the wallop. In those sections, you’ll maneuver Grandma in her specially adapted apparatus to take out psychopathic swarms. In the special Call of Minions campaign, players are introduced to a new character, Lady Vill, a “heartless female killing machine.” As is typical with the hormone-driven video game industry, Lady Vill is heavy on cleavage and firepower, and still maintains a good degree of mobility. The Call of Minions campaign is on par if not slightly better than the main storyline campaign, and there are a number of hidden goodies if you can there…which brings me to the game’s currency system.

While the gameplay in the campaigns themselves are relatively well balanced, tying them to a questionable in-game currency has a way of impacting the entire package. This is undoubtedly the weak point of LnL because the majority of players will likely need to spend additional money on IAPs if they want to unlock other areas. Within each level, there is a finite number of enemies that can be killed, which makes earning enough cash to unlock Call of Minions near impossible considering all the other powerups (e.g. health, weapons upgrades) that you’ll need to purchase. I consider myself to be an above average player, and in Normal mode, it’s difficult to complete certain levels unscathed or without upgrades.

Even some of the typical upgrades are difficult to reach given the significant amount of in-game cash required. The challenge maps offer survival modes as well as timed sections and mini puzzles where cash can be earned, but those also require cash to unlock in the first place. Unlocking the entire game along with unlimited cash will cost you $15. Note that I ended up purchasing the necessary in-game cash to unlock Call of Minions.

LnL has Crystal game support and achievements which add to the replay value, but lack of GameCenter or OpenFeint support may be an issue for some.

All in all, Lock ‘n’ Load is a great game with terrific graphics and plenty of content if you can get over the currency system. The game’s strong qualities such as engaging storyline and levels make it worth checking out.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (fantastic animation and fun gaming experience; plenty of variety in terms of content and enemy variation; engaging storyline and well thought out level designs; in-game currency system needs tweaking with prolonged grinding required in order to bypass IAPs which can be a turnoff; Crystal game support)

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Bullet Time, pulp fiction, New York Minute…sounds like Max Payne’s back in the house.

Max Payne is in many ways an icon in the video game industry you just knew would eventually show up for the iOS party. Like the Mario Brothers and Sonic the Hedgehog, he’s the kind of guy you want on your side. In this latest reincarnation for our revenge seeking vigilante hero, Max Payne in his dated glory is still the man when it comes to a story-driven, intense third-person shooter.

Ported to the iOS by Rockstar Games, the story of Max Payne opens with gut-wrenching, emotionally-charged scenes that set the tone for the rest of the game. A tale that involves the demise of his family, the search for the truth and ultimately, the hunt for revenge, I would argue that the story in Max Payne remains as strong as it ever has been compared to many of today’s games where storytelling is so secondary. Even the voice acting from a decade ago helps to build the anger, desperation, and hatred that transform Max Payne into who he is.

As a third-person shooter, Max Payne has all the elements you want. From dodging and jumping to stealth and Bullet Time slow-motion, the game provides an involved and engaging experience. The adventure follows a nine-chapter storyline and offers a number of modes including Fugitive, Hard-Boiled, Dead on Arrival and New York Minute. Fugitive mode offers relatively easy gameplay where Max suffers less damage, finds ample supplies of painkillers to repair health, and has more ammo than you can shoot a mobster with. New York Minute is a great game mode where Max is challenged to clear out levels within a limited time period.

While the game has been around for more than a decade and I know most reviewers like to review based on nostalgia, it’s probably fair to look at Max Payne from the perspective of today’s gaming audience. Visually, Max Payne is a good looking game with detailed environments that draw the player in. The story is presented in comic book cut scenes accompanied by what I consider really excellent voiceover. The voiceovers are worth pointing out because there is a certain talent involved in coming off convincingly. Believe me, it’s night and day when listening to good and bad voice actors and Max Payne fortunately did them right.

The graphics and animation look terrific on the latest iPad, and they look fine on older generation iPads and the iPhone. Remarkably, while the graphics are from a 10+ year old game, they look comparable to many of today’s game. Don’t get me wrong, Max is showing some wrinkles. Besides some of the low resolution images which aren’t really bad, the other hitch is that the faces of people look pasted onto to square-like heads which can look awkward and even a little freaky. However, most importantly, Max Payne runs rather smoothly on the new iPad, although there is an occasional minor lag on the original iPad.

The game has a tutorial which I suggest for new players that gets you familiar with the various controls. Speaking of the controls, the devs do a rather nice job converting a PC mouse-controlled game to touch screen. Moving and turning done by tapping and dragging on the screen are more than adequate, although they can feel a little loose at times. For more specific actions, buttons are provided for jumping and opening doors and moving while jumping will generate other actions such as rolling for example. A shooting button is also provided, and an Auto Aim function is included that you can turn on/off. In general, I suggest turning on the Auto Aim function because I found shooting lacked accuracy otherwise. A Bullet Time button activates slow motion and generally works well especially since you can see bullet trails galore (ala The Matrix).

Everything is neatly integrated into a simple HUD. The HUD displays everything from weapons and ammo levels to the amount of bullet time in the form of an hourglass. Switching between weapons is as simple as swiping the weapon icon to shuffle amongst your arsenal. There is a good degree of customization and button placement, although I found the default placement more than adequate. But, if you desire, you can move and place buttons where you like.

In terms of the gameplay, Max Payne benefits greatly from the atmospheric, mood-setting storyline. For new players, Max Payne starts off rather slowly, but the latter part of the game is really where things liven up. Whether you’re in a lonely subway or in a seedy brothel, the game does an effective job of establishing and building a good amount of tension and intensity. Even as you peak around a bathroom stall door, you feel a bit of paranoia creep up on you.

Also, there is a good mix of heavy action as well as stealth activities. The gun battles with the mafia are wild and persistent, and can be quite graphic (for an iTunes game). Humor is a big part of Max Payne so there are plenty of situations where you may actually enjoy eavesdropping on some of the funny conversations between mobsters before you blow them away.

While they work more than adequately, the touch controls can offer a fair share of annoyances keeping in mind that this game was originally PC mouse based. One general annoyance is the lack of precision. There are a number of platforming elements in the game (i.e. jumping between subway trains) that can be tedious. Other times, turning and moving can require more tweaking than you’d like.

Aside from the good, albeit temperamental controls, and the occasional lag, the game inconsistently implements Auto Save. For a game such as this, checkpoints and Auto Save are almost mandatory. Unfortunately, players will need to manually save progress. Otherwise, you’re looking at a lot of pain by Max Payne. Also, there is a slight load time of varying lengths in between chapters which can slow things down.

Instead of GameCenter support, Rockstar has implemented its Social Club which currently provides 41 achievements. I actually like the layout of the Social Club, and it’s a nice change of pace from GameCenter. Of course, this means achievements here aren’t tracked elsewhere.

Max Payne may be from another era, but he can still give today’s games a run for their money. This third-person shooter has something that other games still struggle for today—personality. The terrific voice acting, engaging storyline and atmospheric tone throughout is still one of Max Payne’s biggest differentiators. For old school gamers, Max Payne will bring back memories of sitting in front of your PC monitor with mouse and Cheetos in hand. Those new to Max Payne will enjoy the intensity and humor and just maybe have a better appreciation of what old school means.

Albie Meter: 4.5 Stars (excellent port of a classic with great storyline; atmospheric game with personality the delivers intense gameplay; touch controls are more than adequate but can temperamental and require tweaking; inconsistent auto save function means relying on manual saves; Rockstar Social Club achievements and tracking)

 

Shoot’em ups (shmups) are like cars…you’re always on the lookout for the next best one.  Likely, that’s tied to our primal, competitive natures, but I digress.  If you are looking for the latest and greatest, then look no further than Taito’s Dariusburst SP (Second Prologue), a visual extravaganza whose 3D graphics and rewarding gameplay will have your head spinning.  Easily one of the best looking shmups for the iOS, Dariusburst SP is a fast moving, action-packed experience that only strengthens the platform’s viability in the gaming arena.

Dariusburst SP provides a good deal of content in different modes and includes a number of customizable options to make the experience even more engaging.  The soundtrack is probably one of the better ones you’ll come across and has that decidedly pulse racing feel to it.  A visual stunner, the frame rates are smooth, and you certainly get your money’s worth.

Regardless of whether you’re familiar with the Darius series, Dariusburst SP involves maneuvering and shooting through a crowded field of alien ships, battle cruisers, asteroids and mechanical sea creatures.  The enemies are detailed and come in droves as you would expect in a bullet hell shooter.

There are 4 ships to choose from: Assault, Legend Zero (both unlocked to start), Next Zero and Origin (unlocked as modes are completed).  The burst in the game’s name refers to the powerful laser burst each ship is capable of launching.  With the exception of the Origin ship which doesn’t have a burst capability, each has different attributes in shot and power levels as well as the different type of burst beam.  For example, the Legend Type Zero launches a continuous burst of energy that obliterates everything in its path.  The Assault releases a powerful energy sphere that’s as destructive in its own right.

The game offers 3 modes: SP, Original and Mission.  SP and Original modes are basically arcade modes where the objective is to complete a number of levels culminating in the boss fight.  In these modes, a level system is in place similar to Taito’s Space Invaders Infinity Gene where players can choose specific levels and paths leading up to the boss battle.  Referred to as zones, each of the modes consists of 5 total zones in order to complete the entire mission.  Completing an entire mission in SP and Original modes unlocks Mission mode.  Mission consists of 8 stages each of which are survival modes where a player is limited to one ship and life to complete each of the levels within each stage.

A basic tutorial is included, but for the most part, players will figure out the intricacies as they progress.  In terms of options, players can choose among easy, normal and hard difficulty settings and set up the control layouts for fire, lock and burst buttons.  Screen size and placement can also be tweaked as well.  A continue count option is included that allows anywhere from zero to unlimited continues for levels at the point of destruction in SP and Original modes.

The touch controls in Dariusburst SP work well.  Navigating a ship is done by dragging around the screen, and for what it’s worth, I had no issues with that kind of control set up.  Unfortunately, that’s the only control scheme available.  Having said that, the touch controls allow for a higher degree of precision in movement and navigation.  The various fire, lock and burst buttons are responsive as well, and the fire button can be set to auto fire depending on the player’s preference.

The power ups in the game provide another layer of variety.  As enemies are destroyed, colored orbs appear that can be collected to boost the power of the ship.

Red—boosts shot level

Blue—boosts shield level

Green—boosts bomb level

Gold—destroys all enemies on screen

Silver—awards bonus points

1 Up—awards extra life

The gameplay is where Dariusburst SP sets its mark.  There is plenty of eye candy from the enemies and backgrounds to the environments and explosions.  The enemies can only be described as voluminous and unusual.  The best part is how detailed they are.  For example, one enemy ship resembling a hockey puck opens up to reveal twin cannons.  The boss fights are significant because they take up the majority of the screen, each boss with their own strengths and weaknesses.  The environments are varied and detailed.  One level may take you inside the hull of a ship, while next involves zooming through a crowded asteroid field.

To say that there is a lot going on would be an understatement.  What makes Dariusburst SP even better is the feeling of speed and depth.  Often, what you have with bullet hell shooters is murky graphics and laggy movement.  Not so with Dariusburst SP.  Running on an iPad, I found the graphics ran smoothly with no lag whatsoever.  The 3D animation really shines whether you’re looking at the bony metal plates of the bosses to the high-energy explosions of enemy ships.  Enemies come from all directions and at any given time, a flurry of enemy fire covers the majority of the screen.  Navigating through the environments is an added challenge because crashing into anything will cause damage.

On the Easy setting, the game is straightforwardly chaotic yet manageable.  The boss fights tend to be one-sided in the player’s favor, but still require quick maneuvering.  And, players will want to unlock Mission mode as soon as possible since this is where the game becomes engagingly difficult because of the survival mode set up.  For an added challenge, select the Origin ship and see how far you get without the burst capability.  In general, the AI is well balanced and should appeal to players of all experience levels.

To further add to the replay value, Dariusburst SP has an achievement system through GameCenter that covers everything from clearing levels and collecting items to destroying bosses and causing destruction with certain bursts.

With that said, the levels can feel a little short, but then again, there is a lot packed into those levels.  As mentioned, the game doesn’t provide a d-pad which can be issue for some who prefer that control scheme.  But, these are minor flaws that don’t take away from the overall experience.

Dariusburst SP is a shmup that not only takes advantage of the latest iOS devices, but really sets the bar in terms of providing a 3D high-energy, smooth playing experience.   Graphics aside, the depth and fast-paced action by themselves should attract most if not everyone who enjoys this genre.

Albie Meter: 5 Stars (smooth 3D graphics and gameplay provide top-notch experience; pulse racing soundtrack creates the right mood; easy to use touch controls and intuitive upgrade system; feeling of speed with a variety of environments and enemies; GameCenter achievements; no d-pad or tilt control options)

The iPhone/iPod Touch platform is aimed at the casual gaming audience who primarily enjoy pick-up-and-play types of games with a low learning curve. Typically, this becomes a juggling act for devs who also want to serve the more advanced gamers as well. The 2D aerial shooter Mini Squadron is one of those games that not only gives the casual gamer a terrific experience, but provides enough to those of us who want a little more entertainment as well. In fact, I’m almost tempted to say that this is one of the best games this year simply because it should appeal to audiences across the board.

Admittedly, when you first look at this shooter, it’s a rather ho-hum visual experience that lulls you into a sense of gaming complacency. Don’t get me wrong, the cartoony graphics and animations are a wonderful part of Mini Squadron. But even with its vibrantly colorful backdrops and eye-catching planes, you’re thinking that the gameplay would be mundane. Ah, but that’s where you’d be wrong, and in a way, that’s the genius behind Mini Squadron.

The 2D graphics zip along pretty well, and the explosions and whirring engines of aerial vehicles provides just the right touch of ambience. Now, this is typical of what you would expect from a decent or even good casual game in the iTunes store. Where Mini Squadron sets itself apart is the gameplay which frankly is some of the most intense you’ll come across. The genius here is that it’s provided in a 2D environment that delivers all the flair, charm and most importantly addictiveness that you probably wouldn’t find in more elaborately developed games.

Along the way, you’re accompanied by a classical music soundtrack that does a nice job countering the extreme air battles. In addition to the cartoony violence, an elfin voice serves as your little buddy announcing the various power ups that come into play as well as your demise as you crash and burn.

Mini Squadron has 8 levels of combat beginning at Duck Island with subsequent battles at places such as Face Land, Knobbly Coast, Lunar Sea, Sunset Lagoon, Jungle Massive, and Devil’s Dustbowl. Each level has present 12 attack waves that must be cleared before unlocking the next battle location. And that’s quite the chore since there are a multitude of enemy fighters, bombers, UFOs and even ducks.

The controls consist of a virtual joystick and a fire button, which work perfectly. The game also includes a sensitivity option for the joystick which I recommend adjusting down for better handling and steering—the default setting is way too sensitive. The controls work amazingly well, allowing you to pursue enemies as well as perform loops in the heat of battle.

The game boasts 56 different planes that can be unlocked. Each plane has different attributes from design and weapons to speed and handling. With planes named Buccaneer, Barney, and Gecko, you know you’re in for some fun. And, you can switch back and forth between planes you’ve unlocked.

Of course, power ups appear in the form of flashing colored stars, and acquiring them can be interesting. These power ups provide a variety of weapons upgrades such as Homing Missile, Drop Bomb, Air Strike, Laser and Big Laser. Additional power ups include invisibility (ghost), speed boost, health, and invincibility.

Mini Squadron has a checkpoint system for saving game progress which after completing every 3 attack waves. The game does keep track of the last wave completed, but you’ll want to be careful about accidentally hitting the restart which is located dangerously close by especially for those with larger fingers.

If you’re not drawn in by the graphics and animation, then the gameplay surely will. Besides zipping around, you also have to be careful about flying too high or too low. Initially, this was a turn off for me, but the top of screen turn blacks when you reach the edge of the environment. After playing this a bit, what you realize is that planes will stall if they fly too high, thus causing them to nosedive and crash. So the limited real estate is a good trade off. Additionally, since the real estate is limited, your plane will bounce off the sides of the screen. This adds a nice element of challenge since other games typically will allow an object to travel off one side and reappear on the other side which I generally don’t like.

The difficulty level is definitely a strong point since enemies do a good job of attacking and evading. A counter appears at the top that shows the remaining number of enemies, and while your plane can take its share of hits, you only get 3 lives to make it through a level unless a health power up is acquired. Taking down an enemy takes several shots, but you’ll spend a bulk of your time dodging enemy fire. From streams of smoke to flying parts, Mini Squadron is as fun to watch as it is to play as the devs did a good job of illustrating damage. And, if you hit an enemy several times consequently, a scoring multiplier jacks up your score.

The game’s controls really are very fluid, and while you can loop your plane and perform dangerous maneuvers, enemies can also do the same. Often, they will steer and loop to stay out of your line of fire which offers the right amount of challenge. Arrow indicators appear along the sides of the screen to show the location of enemies as well as power ups. Catching power ups is not as easy as it seems since they float in all directions, and you have to be cognizant of stalling or hitting the surface. Initially, shooting in all directions will likely hit a target, but as you progress, enemies gradually become faster and more nimble.

The crashes are spectacular in a miniature kind of way with explosions and screen shaking to boot. For some, the screen shaking can be a distraction since it also comes about when an air strike is initiated. A nice touch is when you’re shot down and a splash screen tells you the name of who caused your fiery crash. It doesn’t serve any particular purpose, but it certainly adds flavor to the game.

Where the game lacks is in the tutorial department. Upon playing the game the first time, I had no idea what the flashing stars were or even that my plane could stall. In the scheme of things, it’s a small oversight since many will be able to quickly pick up this game. Right now, Mini Squadron offers only local wi-fi play which is unfortunate, and has only local high scores. Both of these are not deal breakers by any means, but would further strengthen the replay value.

Overall, Mini Squadron exceeds my expectations and should do the same for many others as well. For casual gamers and those more advanced, this is really offers the best of both worlds, and you don’t need an elfin voice to tell you that.

Albie Meter: 4.5 Stars (awesome shooter that isn’t just fun, it’s addictive; good production values along with a large number of unlockable planes; gameplay is designed for short, intense sessions, but flexible enough for longer play; checkpoint save system at every 3 attack waves; lack of tutorial and online scoring; local wi-fi only)

Check out my review at http://www.appversity.com/reviews/mini-squadron%E2%80%94-an-explosive-aerial-shooter-that-fits-in-your-pocket/

Alone…

That’s the essence in the timeless first-person survival shooter, Doom Classic. Doom blasted onto the gaming scene back in the 1990s, creating the genre and serving as the foundation for today’s FPS games. For a few years, Doom was really the only credible and viable FPS in town. So it was only a matter of time before it ultimately appeared on the iPhone/iPod Touch platform. For those who grew up with the franchise, the port delivers a mostly entertaining experience along with a bit of nostalgia. And for a new generation of gamers, Doom Classic is an opportunity to see how it all began.

Building on the theme of alone, Doom is all about survival—yours. In response to a distress call from Phobos Base, your marine squad has been sent to investigate. Of course, Phobos Base is part of UAC, a mega corporation involved in strange experiments. As things would have it, the scientific base has been overrun by demons from Hell wiping out everyone including your squad. As the sole survivor Doomguy, your objective is simple: return the favor by cleaning up the UAC base and preventing the underworld vermin from reaching our world. The rules are even simpler: shoot whatever moves.

Unlike Doom Resurrection, Doom Classic is off-rails, meaning free movement wherever your heart desires. Doom Classic is a compilation of 4 episodes: Knee-Deep in the Dead, Shores of Hell, Inferno, and Thy Flesh Consumed with a total of 36 missions. Since the missions are unlocked, they can be played individually or as part of a progressive campaign. The game has 4 difficulty levels that are identified by the number of monsters. The easiest setting depicted by a few monsters is the easiest, while the hardest is full of monsters. For the best effect, play the progressive campaign on the hardest setting. On a side note, the game is so faithful to the original that cheat codes work. To enter these, tap the screen with four fingers to bring up the keyboard.

In the conventional sense, Doom isn’t really a thinking person’s game when compared to many of today’s FPSs. The puzzles focus primarily on locating certain color-coded key cards to open doors to progress. While this sounds like I’m selling Doom short, I’m not because it is an enjoyable pure shooter through and through.

Graphically, Doom holds its own against some of today’s FPSs. Remember, this is a two-decades-old game, but the 2D animation is smooth and gory along with a fast-paced, B-movie-type soundtrack. The maze-like passages along with the enemies in the base are well rendered which is important as you quickly move from place to place.

Doom offers three control schemes and variety of customization options. In general, the two dual-stick layouts provide one control for moving forward/back and another for turning left/right. A single stick scheme is also available that provides lateral and bilateral movement, which is personally works well for me. A separate fire button is provided for shooting. In the Move controls section, the placement of controls can be rearranged and saved based on personal preferences. Other customization includes move and tilt speed, auto use (which makes opening doors a lot easier), status bar, ramping and touch click. The controls work pretty well, although they initially do feel loose. But, plan to spend time experimenting with control tweaks and placement. Also, keep in mind that Doomguy like most white men can’t jump, which may be disconcerting for those new to the game, but it really doesn’t impact gameplay.

The HUD which you can turn off provides an overview of ammo reserves, health and armor protection. The HUD also keeps track of the key cards you’ve acquired. One of things you’ll notice is the face of Doomguy located in the middle of the HUD. Various emotions are expressed throughout the game depending on the status of health. Tapping the face of Doomguy will bring up the weapons display where you can shuffle between available weapons to use. Speaking of weapons, throughout Doom Classic, random weapons and ammo will appear at random spots and mostly after killing an enemy. Weapons include the default pistol, shotgun, chaingun, rockets, plasma, BFG, and chainsaw. Note that a double shotgun is listed for whatever reason, but doesn’t work in this version of Doom. If you prefer more hand-to-hand combat, fist is also an option.

Besides weapons, Doom Classic has a number of power ups available as Doomguy wanders through the passage ways. These include health bonuses, health superchargers, health repair, invisibility, armor protection, and radiation suits to name a few. They tend to be pretty plentiful, and in some cases when you’re maxed out, you won’t be able to acquire anymore. A mini-map icon can be accessed which provides a simple if not effective line drawing diagram of the base section you’re in. And most importantly, the save function is located in the mini-map screen.

Doom Classic offers the same exact gameplay you’d expect. As mentioned, the game is not about solving puzzles in the traditional sense, although finding the right keys to unlock doors is, well, key to progressing. For those new to Doom, haven’t played in a while or just can’t find their way out of a paper bag, don’t worry. While you have complete free movement, Doom is a rather intuitive game even if you wind up walking in circles. Demons and zombies come in all shapes and sizes, and the one thing to keep in mind is that they attack and shoot. From a pure AI perspective, the enemies are not shy about approaching with the sole intent of killing. Defensively, they don’t hide or duck for cover, which is perfectly fine.

One potential pitfall especially for those new to the game is the level of intensity. Doom Classic is not an inherently scary game when it comes to adrenaline-pumping, pants wetting intensity. It’s a classic survival shooter, and if you’ve played many of the more modern FPSs, Doom Classic may feel a bit toned down in comparison. The lack of an online multiplayer component which was a trademark of the original back in the 90s doesn’t help, and hopefully is added in a later update.

If you look at today’s FPSs, I’m sure you’ll see where those got their inspiration. Doom Classic faithfully brings the original FPS to the platform, and for many, it’s a reminder of what video gaming was back in the day. While the graphics are starting to show their age, the gameplay itself still holds it own against many of today’s survival shooters. Whether you’re nostalgic or new to the game, Doom Classic still packs a punch.

Albie Meter: 4.5 Stars (solid FPS with good controls; graphics starting to show their age, but still very comparable to today’s games; smooth animation and intuitive gameplay, although intensity level may not appeal to newer gamers who have been brainwashed—kidding; AI is what you’d expect with a pure survival shooter; must manually save to save progress; lack of online multiplayer)

I remember the days when iDracula set the trend for action shooters with stylistic graphics and animation. The storyline and gameplay may have been one-dimensional, but for a time, iDracula was the adrenaline-pumping shooter many looked for. Garters & Ghouls not only delivers an action shooter with style, but rounds it out with a compelling storyline and intelligent gameplay. While the game isn’t perfect, Garters & Ghouls delivers more than a mind-numbing shooter. It brings a badass debutante that you get to manipulate through the gates of hell.

Now as the title suggests, this is an action shooter that can be a little racy, but should appeal to the immature side in all gamers. You play the role of dead debutante Marie Dupois freshly revived by old Doc Barton. I don’t know why Doc Barton chose Marie, but let’s just say that Marie struts around in a bustier and garter belts packing heat. If that doesn’t sound like a weird fantasy, then I don’t know what does. Dead valley girl Marie longs for her husband Lucas who’s been kidnapped by Mr. Evil himself Thrum. Of course, Thrum is quite the charmer since he has an army of evil minions at his beck and call in the form of zombies, skeletons, werewolves, and even mimes. The game consists of 25 levels of mad shooting in cemeteries, amusement parks, mausoleums, a university and various neighborhoods Buffy style.

Visually, Garters & Ghouls looks great with smooth animation accompanied by macabre sounds. Whether squishy noises or the yelping of werewolves, the game does a good job of setting the mood which isn’t cheery. Besides killing hordes, you also must destroy portals from which they emerge. These portals are literally the doorways to evil strategically located throughout. And, all portals must be destroyed before a level can be cleared.

The game is controlled by dual control sticks—the left one for movement with the right one for aiming and shooting. The controls work well, although they could be a little smoother. All in all, Marie moves and shoots where you want her to. By default, Marie has a basic crossbow that has unlimited firepower. Three additional weapons are available which randomly appear after killing something: Multi-shot coil gun, Grenade Launcher, and Machine Gun.

The multi-shot coil gun fires five multi-directional bullets with each shot. The grenade launcher not only wipes out a target but also sends pieces of shrapnel in various directions. And, the machine gun rapidly fires high-velocity shots at enemies. Each of these weapons has limited ammo with a running tally provided at the bottom of the screen. Once ammo is depleted, Marie defaults to the crossbow. Either way, you definitely wouldn’t want to be on Marie’s bad side.

Throughout the game, money appears from the bodies of dead zombies—that’s redundant—werewolves, and other creatures. This money can then be used to purchase additional weapons upgrades as well as health, walking speed, and ammo. Now, Garters & Ghouls doesn’t make it easy for you to purchase upgrades. That would be too easy. You have to battle through the minion hordes in order to reach the Steam Queens shop. Apparently, this is the underworld’s version of Big 5.

Garters & Ghouls also has an achievement system consisting of 22 different and weird accomplishments based on types of enemies killed. Here are a few notable ones:

Major Silent Treatment—killing 75 mimes
Major Brain Bath—killing 75 zombies
Dead-Eye Gold—shoot 30 times without hitting a target
Desecrator—destroy every gravestone in the graveyard area
Silver Bullet Platinum—destroy 40 werewolves without getting bitten

Garters & Ghouls provides a mini-map tracking enemies as well as the portals. This comes in handy because of the way the levels are designed. Besides the garter belt-wearing Marie, what differentiates this shooter from others is the maze-like level design. Maneuvering Marie through the environments is no cake walk, and if you aren’t careful, can lead down a dead end path. And of course, the portals are randomly placed, and in many cases, you have to follow the bodies if you will to locate them. Once Marie is done with her otherworldly cleanup, then she needs locate the entrance to the next stage.

The game isn’t perfect by any means. Shooting accuracy can be difficult and in some cases, it’s tied to the graphics. Bullets and the various dead things in the game will occasionally go through each other. I’m sure you can market this as an underworld-type game where that’s supposed to happen, but it happens. In terms of the weapons, you can switch between weapons, which is a minor nick for me, but for others who are soldiers of fortune in training, this can be an issue. And, as mentioned previously, the controls could be smoother, but they are still adequate in its current form.

Overall, Garters & Ghouls delivers a fun and intense game with an unusual storyline. The levels progressively become more difficult both in the attacking hordes as well as the level design. If you’re into action shooters or just looking for a little sex appeal with your cup of ammo, you may want to join Marie on her ride through Garters & Ghouls.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (fun, intense, and weird action shooter with a lingerie-wearing debutante—need I say more; campy and well-thought out levels with achievements and weapons upgrade; controls aren’t the smoothest but adequate; can’t switch out weapons; keep the eerie sound effects or play your own music)

Most of us probably had our first exposure to Lazrhog Games with its port of Kenta Cho’s rRootage. If you enjoyed the visual eye candy of that game, you’ll definitely want to check out its latest 3D shooter iPlutoid. Combining a 3D retro look, highly responsive controls, and innovative orbital gameplay, iPlutoid is a fantastic shooter that may just be different enough from other shooters to lure you in.

Playing the role of Lt. Starfighter, your task to is to battle and destroy waves of Noki aliens intent on capturing humanoid residents and conquering the planet Plutoid. iPlutoid is different from your typical shooter since part of the challenge is learning to navigate and shoot your way out of trouble while in orbit. This adds a twist to how you approach targeting, shooting and dodging enemy ships.

Visually, the 3D graphics are some of the best you’ll see…when it comes to polygons. Most of us probably prefer smooth graphics, but the use of jagged edges and corners, flat and shaded surfaces, and overall old school look work extremely well in iPlutoid. From the palm trees and buildings to mountains and hills, you’ll probably wish you could leisurely fly around a little more.

Since this game is accelerometer controlled, I was initially worried about responsiveness, but the animation and movement are done equally well. The controls work perfectly, although they do require some practice. To move left or right, simply tilt in the appropriate direction, and tilt forward to adjust the pitch. Thrusters are controlled by tapping the left side of the screen, while tapping the right side fire weapons. Auto/fixed calibration and tilt sensitivity options are also available.

The most difficult part of the controls for most will be adjusting the pitch since this is relevant for both shooting accuracy and navigation. A targeting scanner appears when an alien ship is in firing range. Because the game is played in orbit and enemy ships appear above and below your ship, effectively adjusting pitch is essential if you’re to hit targets. In addition to enemy fire and mines, your ship will be destroyed by objects on the ground such as trees, windmills and light houses to name a few if you fly too low. While your ship has radar to detect enemies, you are limited to a dual turret weapon and no shields.

To keep things interesting, the Noki have a variety of different vessels at their disposal. Lunars are the most abundant and the primary ships for capturing humanoids. They do this via tractor beam and if you manage to shoot them down before they reach orbit, you’ll be able to save the humanoid. Humanoids that are unfortunate enough to be captured are turned into Mutoids who in turn become yet another enemy for you.

Other Noki weapons include:
Miners—leave mines in your ship’s path
Spikers—fewer in number but harder to destroy
M-Ships—a vessel that splits into mini-ships when hit

Something to keep in mind is that Plutoid is a living planet, and this is really where the 3D graphics come alive. In general, the objective is to prevent the capture of all the humanoids. During the battles, homes and windmills are destroyed, but gradually rebuilt over time. Once all the humanoids have been captured, your most important task is to save the lighthouse from being destroyed. Apparently, the Noki don’t like light, and once the lighthouse is destroyed, Plutoid will be lost.

Having played with a good number of shooters on the iPhone/iPod Touch platform, iPlutoid is quite different from the typical shooter. The controls make steering around weapons fire possible, although that becomes more difficult as you progress through the attack waves. A number of times, I’ve flown into objects on the planet avoiding Noki ships that tend to adopt a kamikaze approach. As simple as it sounds, steering a ship can at times be an exercise in futility with some shooters. In iPlutoid, even turning a ship around and reversing course is a breeze.

The art of shooting is one of the best parts of the gameplay because often a straight shot is not a straight shot. The target scanner will flash red when locked on an enemy, but on occasion, it can be difficult to pick up on the dark background. What iPlutoid could use is perks or power ups since there aren’t any at this time, although this may be considered part of the challenge. While it doesn’t offer difficulty levels, the game seems balanced, although the difficulty ratchets up quickly. But, even in your frustration, you’re likely to fall for the addictive gameplay. The game has local and online scoring as well as auto save, which only make iPlutoid an easy to pick-up-and-play game.

Overall, iPlutoid is fun and different kind of shooter that offers enough innovative elements to make it worthy for fans of the genre. For others, the funky landscapes and smooth controls make this an easy decision.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (addictive shooter with great 3D graphics, smooth controls, and challenging gameplay; game is divided into attack waves rather stages; targeting scanner can be difficult to pick up on occasion; auto save and online scoring included)