App of the Week: ReRave

Developer: Step Evolution

Compatible with: iPhone 3GS and up, iPod Touch 3rd Gen and up, iPad

Requires: iOS 5.1

Price: $0.99

Available: here

While there are quite a few gaming franchises I want to come back (“Crimson Skies”!!!!!!), I think the one that I may be most personally nostalgic for is “Elite Beat Agents.”

Released around the height of music gaming’s popularity, “Elite Beat Agents” may have been based around a bizarre story (save the world with the power of dance, basically), but the gameplay couldn’t have been more simple, as you tapped various buttons in time with the beat of a song, en route to victory. Impossibly addictive and incredibly unique, this game wore down my stylus to a nub and stands amongst the crowded DS library as a true highlight.

The fact that talks of a sequel remain only rumors used to sadden me, but those feelings have been recently alleviated somewhat by the discovery that there is a spiritual successor to that experience by the name of “ReRave.”

Though it bears no official similarities to “EBA,” “ReRave” sports a similar concept that sees you tap circles in correct sequence to the beat of the songs. The difference is, that whereas “EBA” required a shrinking outer circle to reach the borders of your button before you could tap it, “ReRave” sees you manipulating circles that bear resemblance to the power button of many devices, and tapping them only when the line on the bottom reaches the 12 o’ clock position,until the song is done. While most are vanquished with a  simple touch, some require you to hold them until they finish a bath, some require multiple taps at 1/8th beat intervals, and the dreaded double circles appear that must be completed simultaneously.

mzl.huvlfebw.320x480-75

Like any good rhythm game, this is a system that allows for an “easy to learn, tough to master,” philosophy, and quickly pulls you into the overall experience. A big part of this has to go to the music which may not make my playlist in everyday life (it’s a lot of club like music), but works absolutely perfectly in a gaming environment such as this, as their unique beats and paces result in creative playgrounds of rhythm based tapping that will have your fingers dancing across the screen with maniacal precision. Thankfully multiple difficulty levels allow you to adjust as needed if things get too intense, or not near intense enough.

Now while it’s nice that the game features leaderboards, downloadable songs (both free and paid), and a ton of achievements, in truth if the game came with nothing but a few tracks and just the gameplay screen, I’d still be hopelessly addicted to it. This style of gameplay for a music game was flawless in “EBA,” and it maintains that untainted luster here as “ReRave” is one of the most engrossing games available in the music gaming genre, and in all of mobile gaming.

Normally I’d look down on a game for borrowing so liberally from another title, but it’s about time someone brought back this style of gameplay to mobile gaming, and the team behind “ReRave” have done so with near flawless execution. When you really think about it, gaming has long been pressing a series of buttons in proper order, so it really says something that the concept has almost never been as hopelessly addictive as it has in “ReRave,” a can’t miss app of the week.

  

You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook for content updates. Also, sign up for our email list for weekly updates and check us out on Google+ as well.

App of the Week: Sword and Glory

Developer: Ifelse Media Ltd.

Compatible with: iPod Touch 3rd gen and up, iPad, iPhone 3GS and up (optimized for iPhone 5), Android devices

Requires: iOS 4.0 and up, Android 2.0.1 and up

Price: Free

Available: here (for iOS) and here (for Android)

If you’re anything like me, you’re suffering some serious withdrawals this week, as there will be no new “Game of Thrones” episode on Sunday, and winter itself will have come and gone by the time we get more.

However, if you are similarly disheartened by the hibernation of television’s best show, there is a simple solution that can tide you over for the long wait.

Read the books.

Should that not be enough to feed the hunger though, then also consider downloading “Sword and Glory.”

It’s a medieval-ish era gaming app that shares several similarities with the HBO series, starting with the basis of families feuding. Right from the outset you are asked to align yourself with one of three warring clans (or choose to go on your own), for which to win glory for. After choosing some personal attributes that help create your character, you’ll find that winning glory mostly boils down to completing various quests that all lead to one-on-one duels with some undesirables.

Making up the bulk of the gameplay, the dueling system in “Sword & Glory” is of the easy to learn, but tough to master variety. It only consists of two basic functions (block and attack) which can each be accomplished through various levels of force, with the basic goal being to get past your enemies’ defenses and kill them. I’ve heard it compared to a “rock, paper, scissors” style, but it’s more about timing and rhythm, especially in later parts where the difficulty shoots up quickly and you are forced to think and act appropriately.

unnamed

In another interesting parallel to “Thrones,” the world of “Sword & Glory” is a morally grey one, even though the game’s graphical palate is pleasingly rendered in black and white. Choices must be made around every corner which can hold great sway over proceedings both immediate and long term. Though not as ambiguous or ambitions as say “The Walking Dead,” you’ll often find yourself pausing before decisions to consider your actions, lending weight to the more quiet moments, and some unexpected depth to an otherwise bare bones plot.

Hands down though, the biggest comparison between the two properties is their shared belief that all men must die. Death is inevitable in “Sword & Glory” and once it occurs, your character is gone forever, with their accomplishments immortalized in the game’s ever expanding graveyard. Fear not though, as once death occurs, you may continue on as the next in your character’s line and, while you lose any silver and stats your previous creation had, you retain the glory points they accrued (which can be traded for currency and rare items) and all their equipment as well.

It’s an absolutely brilliant lineage concept that lends both urgency to all your current proceedings, and serious replay value long term, as you attempt to progress a little further each generation. Even if it weren’t present though, you’d find plenty of motivation to keep playing thanks to a perfectly tuned combat system and plenty of enhancements to both your character and homestead to purchase, not to mention the various quests, paths, achievements, and final legacies available to pursue based on your choices.

Sure it’s nothing new in RPG terms, but I can’t overstate how well executed it all is. What you get with “Sword & Glory” is a finely tuned (and damn good looking) mobile RPG that is built upon one of the least forgiving permadeath systems I’ve ever seen, thanks to a lack of stored save points, beyond where you left off. While it can be frustrating to lose a character you’ve invested hours in, it only furthers your motivation to do better the next time, and to die every time with as much glory as possible.

I may keep mentioning “Game of Thrones” since I stumbled upon “Sword & Glory” while getting over my withdraws from the show, but in no way does it relies on that, or any other, property or context to stand out, thanks to a rare mix of raw emotion, depth, and accessibility. In a game all about establishing your legacy and forging a name for yourself, I’m happy to bestow “Sword and Glory” with the title of app of the week.

  

App of the Week: Endless Road

Developer:
Chillingo Ltd.

Compatible with:
iPhone 3GS and up (optimized for iPhone 5)

iPod Touch 3rd gen and up

iPad

Requires:
iOS 4.3 or later

Price:

$0.99

Available here

With well over 20 million downloads, one of the biggest successes of the mobile gaming era has been “Temple Run”. It’s concept couldn’t be more simple as you control a man perpetually running and avoiding obstacles to escape from a temple. It’s a basic idea executed to perfection, and even helped to popularize its own genre of games in the “endless runner”, a genre that hasn’t exactly been prolific in terms of entries that don’t suck.

One very notable exception was recently released though in Chillingo Ltd’s “Endless Road”. Much like it’s forerunner, the idea is elementary, as you are tasked with driving an endless road and avoiding the obstacles in your path, all while gathering coins to purchase upgrades with that range from new vehicles to paint that trails your wake. Along the way are also various jumps and inlaid arrows that speed you up, and can slow you down.

It would be a very unremarkable and forgettable game if it weren’t for a couple of wrinkles in the formula that enhance the experience. The first is the actual road which is constantly folding in on itself as the section behind you falls in your wake, while the road ahead springs up as you progress. It lends a great visual cue that gives you a constant, and necessary, feeling of tension. This tension is only increased by the game’s expertly used soundtrack, that’s constant driving beats provide the perfect sense of urgency.

But what really sells the title is the amazing graphics. While not pushing any technical limitations, the fact that every stage presents a new theme, color pallet, and always tougher series of unique obstacles, means that you never really encounter a moment that takes you out of the game and makes you realize the basic monotony of what you are doing. Instead, it adds to the already impossible addictive nature of this type of game as you can’t wait to see what lies ahead.

Is this another case of style over substance then? Oh most definitely. But that doesn’t mean the core gameplay concept of attempting to maintain a constant speed of 80 MPH or greater in order to not fall into oblivion isn’t absurdly fun on its own, but rather that even that just serves as a showcase to the abundance of creativity the development team has put into every visual. There’s not a millimeter of screen space that isn’t used to full effect, and little touches like a left and right path at the end of each level leading to different environments exemplify how much Chillingo was able to milk the concept for all of the addictiveness and replayability it is worth.

Much like tower defense titles and “Bejeweled” knock off puzzle games, endless runners should have worn their welcome out by now. However, it’s thanks to games like “Endless Road” that keep people coming back to the genres by providing perfect execution of the original ideas, and very fresh coats of paint.  With everything in this game’s arsenal it perfectly exemplifies the idea of the great Texas country singer Robert Earl Keen who said “the road goes on forever, and the party never ends.”

And if you know me at all, you know any game that lets me quote Robert Earl Keen is going to earn the app of the week.

  

App of the Week: Turf Geography Club

Developer:
Hyperspace Inc.

Compatible with:
iPhone
iPad
iPod Touch

Requires:
iOS 4.3 or later

Price:
Free

Available here

I feel like real estate tycoon is one of those universally appealing job titles. I mean sure, according to the History channel’s lineup, any ordinary blue collar position can apparently draw national interest, but the life of a real estate magnate will always hold a certain mystique that other careers just can’t touch. Personally I believe it’s got to be the “Monopoly” effect. That game caused people everywhere to realize that given the opportunity, they will compete for hours with their closest friends and relatives just to acquire a prime piece of property, even if it’s through greed and devious cut throat means.

Now, thanks to developer Michael Tseng, the thrill of real estate wars via a game are back in a big way. His new app “Turf Geography Club” (or just “Turf”) uses a loose relationship with “Foursquare” to allow users to check in to their favorite places (“Foursquare” can also be used to add new properties and check on current ones). But unlike “Foursquare,” the goal isn’t to become a virtual mayor. The mission here is instead world domination, as users look to own the property they check in at.

It works like this. You go to your favorite spot and check in. This gives you coins. Got friends? Good. They can help you earn even more coins by checking in too. With these coins you can then purchase a virtual recreation of that property. Not only that, but since it’s yours, you can spend coins on it to make new additions like signs, condo extensions, and all manners of random item enhancements that make the spot  uniquely yours. Once you’ve built your property up, you have the option to sell it at a higher value to other players, and use the profits on new ventures.

I know what you’re thinking. Doesn’t this mean that one player could conceivably get ahead of the game and own an entire city? Well they could, if it wasn’t for the slot system. See, if you notice a bit of property that you want, but someone else owns, you can steal it from them by using coins to buy a slot pull. If you win the slot pull, you take the property. If you lose, you try again. The more a player spends on a property, it becomes much more difficult to steal it from them. Also if the owner doesn’t keep up with things like repairs, the property becomes easier for others to take. It’s a game about timing and management, with the end goal being to control your own world, and maybe a few other pieces as well.

Like I said, “Foursquare” has been running with the idea of checking into your favorite places for a while, and other apps like “My Town” have let users create their own world from real world locations for years. Where “Turf” pulls ahead of the competition is through its style, and its simplicity. “Turf’s” 8 bit art style makes it immediately visually appealing, and the level of unique customization options available reminds me of “Team Fortress 2″, a game that illustrated the effect that a deep level of add on’s can have to a game’s longevity. Also the design insures that users in small areas aren’t left out of the fun, as one user can grab an iron grasp on the hottest property in town, with everyone working to snatch it from them, as they continue to build and build it putting it further out of reach. The appeal for major city users is, of course, more obvious, as the entire metro area (from bodegas to bars) becomes a virtual battlefield for those seeking total domination.

I’ve covered a few fun apps here so far in this article, but “Turf” is the only one so far that I’m ready to call a must have for any reader. Not only is it built from a solid background derived from “Foursquare,” but it’s incredibly obvious from all of the little design decisions present that the team behind “Turf” is ready to make this app their own thing. Personally, I can’t wait to see what both user contributions and developer additions are going to do to an app that is already poised to become a sensation.

In a game that’s all about properties, “Turf” has already snagged a lofty one that no amount of slot pulls could ever take away from it. That’s its place as my app of the week.

  

Related Posts