App of the Week – Ravensword: Shadowlands

Developer: Crescent Moon Games

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

Requires: iOS 5.0 or later, Android 4.0 and up

Price: $7.00

Available: Here for iOS, and Here for Android

 

You can hit a dinosaur in the face with a sword.

I know that any good porn director will tell you that you shouldn’t start a feature off with the money shot, but I just couldn’t find a way to ease that statement in.

In “Ravensword: Shadowlands,” (freshly available for Android) you have the ability, nay the privilege, to hit a dinosaur square in the face with a weapon of your choosing (mine being the sword).

Oh, and the game itself is an open world RPG that heavily resembles the famed “Elder Scrolls” series in several important and thankful ways. That open world also happens to be beautifully rendered with some of the best technical graphics a mobile system can offer, which are used to accentuate some particularly inspired visual artistic design, all leading to a thematically strong and diverse world that loads every inch with pure content.

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“Ravensword: Shadowlands,” definitely cribs heavily from the book of fantasy RPG design, as you’ll level up, complete quests, take on an incredible variety of enemies with multiple weapons, and even dabble in some magical combat enhancements from time to time. There is no getting around the fact you’ve been down this dirt road before, and ventured these same adventures.

It’s very likely, though, you’ve never experienced an RPG of this quality on a mobile system, and that is the difference. Whereas “Shadowlands” would just feel like an “Elder Scrolls” knockoff on a console, albeit an exceptionally well made one, on a mobile device, it is a constant wonder. Games of this high production value and depth usually don’t happen on a mobile platform, and even if they do, they rarely play so well, or come off as polished and executed, as “Shadowlands” does.

Thus every towering structure, open vista, inspired quest, and intense battle with an impossible creature is just that much greater, because by all rights something of this high quality shouldn’t exist in this format.

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All of that quality does come at a couple of costs. The first is a heavy amount of glitches and bugs throughout (though the developers are working on ironing these out), while the other is the cost of the app itself. $7 is no doubt more than you spend on the usual app, but considering the horror show that is the world of in-app purchases, paying one flat rate to unlock an entire (and gargantuan) game is actually not a huge burden when you consider this isn’t “Doodle Jump,” but an actual video game, for which $7 would normally be considered a steal.

“Shadowlands” is one of the best games I’ve played this year, on a mobile device or otherwise. What it lacks in originality, it makes up for in every single other aspect possible. This isn’t a mobile game you’ll play until something new comes along, or while bored and about, but something you’ll find yourself going back to no matter where you are or what the circumstances.

Of course when you put all of that aside, you can still hit dinosaurs in the face with a sword. Epic mobile experience or not, that’s going to net you my app of the week.

  

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App of the Week – GTA: Vice City

Developer:
Rockstar Games

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

iPod Touch 3rd gen and up

iPad

Android Systems

Requires:
iOS 4.3 or later

Price:

$4.99

Available here (for iOS)

*Temporarily unavailable for Android

I was only a child of the 80’s in the strictest of technical senses, so I don’t share the same nostalgia for the decade that some do. However, it’s still entertaining to look at the 80’s objectively as you wonder what the collective masses of Americana were thinking, and if the mounds of cocaine being passed around enhanced the bad hairstyles and pastel color patterns, or merely numbed the pain of them.

I do however have a fond recollection of the growing up with the “GTA” series in my teenage years, and among those games, I have the fondest memories concerning the 80s influenced “GTA: Vice City”. Hot off the heels of the groundbreaking “GTA: III”, “Vice City” did many of the same things as its predecessor, but added more weapons, missions, characters, rampage options, in-jokes, cars, and everything else that makes the GTA series what it is. In fact, many fans still consider “Vice City” to be the peak of the series to this day.

And now it comes to iOS and Android systems courtesy of Rockstar, to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the game’s release. The conversion carries all of the usual aspects such as enhanced graphics (which look phenomenal on the iPad), custom radio station option (always welcome),and re-worked touch controls (which are always hit and miss for the GTA mobile series, but are serviceable). Other than that it is more or less the same game.

Which is exactly why it’s here. After working out the kinks from the 3D conversion in “GTA:III”, but before becoming burdened with the RPG elements of “San Andreas” or the misguided attempts at realism with “GTA:IV”, “Vice City” ran with its chance to perfect the “GTA” formula, and never looked back. It’s story is still the tightest in all of the series, the voice acting is also among the best (featuring Ray Liotta’s best performance of the last decade), the soundtrack is a hit on all stations, missions are creative without becoming burdensome, the vehicle selection (which included motorcycles and helicopters) is top notch, the weapon variety is fun, the property buying system is inspired, and the use of the over the top 80s with the over the top “GTA” series is a match made in heaven.

Of course you still get the usual “GTA” brand of mayhem, which regardless of the game in the series, is always entertaining. The touch controls will always keep the mobile versions from becoming the definitive version of the games, but they’re about the only thing that isn’t better than the original. One quick note though is that the Android version is having some technical difficulties at the moment and isn’t currently available for download. However, once it is, this is a strong recommendation for all platforms, and a must buy for iPads.

Eventually you can see “Scarface” too many times, listen to Thriller only so much, and don your Don Johnson jacket for the final time while still getting away with it being considered ironic. In those moments, you need an 80’s fix that will never go out of style, and “GTA: Vice City” is just that, making it the app of the week.

  

App of the Week: “The Walking Dead: Assault”

Developer:
Skybound LLC.

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

iPod Touch 3rd gen and up

iPad

Requires:
iOS 4.3 or later

Price:

$1.99

Available here

Between the amazing 3rd season of the AMC show, and the groundbreaking, incredible, indescribably inventive Telltale Games adventure series, we’ve been treated to more “Walking Dead” goodness this year than anyone could have possible anticipated. Yet for mobile developer Skybound, it wasn’t quite enough as they now bring us yet another reason to celebrate the increasing influence of the Robert Kirkman comic series on the digital world with their gaming app, “The Walking Dead: Assault”.

The game, much like Telltale’s, is based off of the original comic, and not the TV show, which is immediately evident by the appealing visual style, where most everything in the game is smartly presented in black and white except for aspects of characters, items, and blood. It lends a very necessary immediate appeal, and produces that always appreciated (if unwelcome) “someone looking over your shoulder while you play” effect.

Unlike the Telltale masterpiece though, this game is centered more on action than character interaction, as it employs a squad based  mechanic (think “X-Men Legends”) that feels right at home in this world. At its core, it doesn’t stray far from the usual tropes of the genre, as you select a group of 4 characters and take them through a series of levels completing mandatory and optional objectives, while fighting off waves of enemies. Along the way you can improve character and group attributes, acquire a range of supplies and weapons (melee and ranged) and take advantage of character’s unique abilities and group effects such as always hitting head shots for a short period of time, or increasing overall group damage. It makes the careful selection of your group vital and entertaining.

Outside of standard mechanics, the game incorporates some specific aspects of the zombie apocalypse nicely through elements like the sound detection system, which allows you to use environmental distractions to draw zombies (though too much noise will bring down the fury of the entire horde). It also does a nice job of compensating for the limits of the touch mechanics, and everything from managing the group, to managing the camera, is handled smoothly. Meanwhile, features like your group auto firing when enemies are in range help keep the action from being upset by poor design, and really show off the potential of this type of game on the mobile format when done well.

“The Walking Dead: Assault” is designed to perfection, which is great since underneath it all is an intensely fun adventure that’s multiple sections and objectives provide a lengthy experience that satisfies that immediate “kill all zombies” urge, but also lends some real substance to the proceedings with the leveling and ability functions. Thanks to the style and execution of the game, the constant bombardment of action never really feels repetitive, and the story of the comics is well implemented through comic book panel interludes.

Right now the game is only the first in a planned series of chapters, but even if more weren’t on the way, this title would be an easy recommendation. Zombie games are a dime a dozen, and mobile squad games rarely work out as they should, but of course it’s the “Walking Dead” series that again breaks new ground. Much like pulling the trigger on a walker, anyone with a slight interest in this game can’t afford to hesitate and should snatch this app up at the introductory $1.99 price.

It was Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead” that theorized that when there is no more room left in hell, the dead will walk the Earth. While that was meant as a warning of the end of days, in this case it’s a welcome happenstance that lends us the chance to play “The Walking Dead: Assault”, a no-brainer (pun very much intended) app of the week.

  

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