App of the Week: Slayin

Developer: Pixel Licker Games

Compatible with: iPhone (optimized for iPhone 5), iPod Touch, and iPad

Requires: iOS 4.3 or later

Price: $0.99

Available here

“Slayin” is an app that wears its retro gaming heart on its sleeve. You don’t have to look hard to spot its influences from games like “Castlevania,” “Ghosts and Goblins,” “Metal Slug,” “Mega Man,” and more, yet “Slayin” is also unique. It touts its gameplay as the first endless action RPG, in that you are constantly moving, constantly battling, and constantly trying to level up and improve yourself through statistical upgrades and better equipment.

Mix those notions of nostalgic ideology and brand new mobile gameplay together, and it’s like tasting peanut butter and chocolate together for the first time. Yes, “Slayin” is basically the Reeses of the app world, yet infinitely more filling.

“Slayin” tasks you with choosing between three character classes (the strong knight, the ability loaded wizard, and the dual sword wielding knave) and embarking on a timeless quest to slay a dragon, and all other minions and bosses along the way. While all the classes have their own unique abilities and progression systems, they are all bound to the very simple play style which has you constantly moving in a small area, and shifting your direction left and right as you work to destroy everything in your path.

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It may be simple, but it works so, so well. “Slayin” refers to itself as the first of its kind, and its uniquely relentless and dangerously addictive style certainly feels the part. Once you quickly adapt to the flow of “Slayin,” you’ll find yourself in that great zen like state a game can provide, where your actions seem to occur a fraction of a second before you even think them. You’ll need those extra quick reactions, as “Slayin” borrows its difficulty from many of those titles that influenced it, though I’m happy to report that the challenge is one based of skill over trial and error for the most part.

While more of an action game than an RPG, those role playing elements still shine in “Slayin,” especially when it comes to its upgrade system. As mentioned, each character type has their own upgrades and equipment available, which the game cleverly lets you purchase without much break in the action courtesy of an appearing shop keeper. Thankfully, the vast majority of your purchases are made with in-game currency, and the additional in-app purchases available are mostly novelty items that in no way are necessary for your completion, or enjoyment, of the game.

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Where “Slayin” really hits it out of the park, though, is in that retro style. Apply this concept to any other form, and it just wouldn’t have worked as well as it does here in a hybrid world of 8 and 16 bit video game design. There isn’t a visual or audio element that doesn’t harken back to that time, and yet “Slayin” also adds just enough of its own style to those elements to feel fresh. This is particularly evident in the music (done by one of the same guys who did “Retro City Rampage”) where a few notes will remind you of certain classic games, yet the score itself is more of a unique entrant into the field than a mere tribute.

There are games out there without a fraction of the addictive nature and charm of “Slayin” that are still great. “Slayin” is a title that focuses on the advantages of the mobile platform, and uses every single one of them to craft an experience that is a feast for the eyes, ears, mind, and hands. It’s a twitch based actioner with equal measures of looks and heart, as well as a surprising amount of depth.

If you ever want to see and experience the design pinnacle of a three button game, then you need “Slayin.” As I type this, I just want to jump back into it’s one more play world that inevitably stretches on for hours, so let me wrap this up quickly by crowning “Slayin” the unquestioned app of the week.

  

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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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