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.

  

MOGA Mobile Gaming System Review: Controlling the Future of Android Gaming

You might know video game accessory makers PowerA as a novelty company of sorts. A quick scan of their website will reveal that they sell everything from Yoshi backpacks to sweet Batarang styled controllers. They’re obviously a company having fun with what they do.

You may, then, try to write off their latest creation, the MOGA mobile gaming console, an Android system game controller, as a novelty as well. After all, the entire point of having a touch-based system is the simplicity of the touch-based controls eliminating the need for traditional controllers. Understandably, it is easy to ignore the idea of buying an accessory for controlling touchscreen games.

Doing so, however, would be doing yourself a tremendous disservice. Compatible with over 40 titles and Android systems 2.3 and up, the MOGA is a battery-operated, bluetooth-enabled controller that essentially turns your touchscreen phone into more of a traditional handheld gaming device. It even works with tablets, remotely, by using a sync button. The reason it succeeds is entirely due to the design of the controller, which is perfectly sized to take into account both your hands and the size of the phone. The button layout is reminiscent of an Xbox controller, and immediately feels comfortable with the real highlights being the “nub” like joysticks that barely protrude from the controller and never intrude on your game experience, the responsive and well placed “trigger” shoulder buttons, and a nice rubber lining along the side of the unit, providing a firm grip.

Even better than the design of the controller is the fact that it really does work. I never once experienced a moment of lag or unresponsiveness while playing, which is quite impressive considering that these games weren’t designed with this controller in mind. The compatible games so far don’t necessarily use every button on the remote at all times, but the ones that they do work in some way to enhance each game significantly, whether it be true range of movement in the FPS “N.O.V.A. 3” thanks to the joysticks, or more accurate QB controls in “Madden 2013” on behalf of the face buttons.

It’s pretty clear that the list of available titles for the MOGA is far from random, and instead are carefully hand picked titles that don’t work on touchscreen gaming alone without some sacrifice, whether minor or seriously detrimental, going along with it. Rather than think of the MOGA as a superfluous touchscreen accessory, you should instead consider it a savior of a variety of genres and titles that at this time simply do not work well on a touchscreen, even if the games themselves are exceptional.

A great example would be the phenomenal “Sonic CD.” Never having had the chance to experience this classic during its release, using the MOGA I found myself incredibly addicted to it. Curious, I switched to the touchscreen controls and found it purely unplayable to the point where I questioned the integrity of releasing it in such a format. That’s one example, but it holds true for many of the compatible titles so far. The MOGA significantly enhances the value of the games it supports.

PowerA is already hyping new titles and developers that are set to jump onto the MOGA, and I hope it happens soon. The very idea of the controller opens up a missing link of sorts between mobile gaming and the rest of the field, and the actual functionality of the device immediately eliminates any doubts you might have regarding if the concept can truly work. I wish there was a greater range of motion on the actual dock (which can be set to three positions), but it does work for everyday use, as well as more unconventional playing positions like lying down.

Whether or not the MOGA justifies its $49.99 price tag is entirely dependent on a number of factors, such as how much you game on your mobile device, how many of the compatible games you play, and how much faith you have in a variety of developers continuing to support the device. Considering its ingenious design, though, in a perfect world we would see enough continued support for this device to call buying it now an investment. As it stands, the MOGA adds some kind of improvement to every game it works with and is easily one of the best all-around gaming accessories I’ve used this year.

  

App of the Week: Sing It, Say It

Developer:
Wobbyl LLC

Compatible with:
iPhone
iPad
iPod Touch (4th Generation)

Android Compatible Systems

Requires:
iOS 5.0 or later

Android 2.0.1 or up

Price:
$0.99

Available here for iOS and here for Android

Considering that the app “Draw Something” has been downloaded over 50 million times since its release, it was, of course, inevitable that other developers would try to take their own stab at the concept, and reap the considerable rewards of the apparently huge market that exists for that style of game.

Yet unlike the many “Angry Birds”knock offs out there, there really isn’t much creative freedom in trying to duplicate “Draw Something.” As indicated by the title, it’s a game where you draw something, people take a guess at what subject it is you are trying to draw, and the world rejoices at the fun had by all in the process. It’s not exactly a concept that is easy to capitalize off of without directly copying the original idea. While this would usually be a breath of fresh air, creatively speaking, it’s truthfully kind of sad that no one has found a way to take the basic idea present in that game (user created trivia with your friends) and find a fun new direction to take it in.

That’s why I like the new app “Sing It, Say It.” Instead of relying on a visual for the trivia question, “Sing It, Say It” instead uses audio clues. Specifically, you are asked to record a movie quote or song lyrics, provide the answer in a limited character space, and share it with up tofour other players (random, or grouped through you) to see who can match the sound to its source. The gameplay is enhanced by the ability to acquire tickets by winning and achieving other goals like winning streaks, or being the fastest guesser in your group. These tickets work as in game currency to unlock bonuses that range from more recording time, to voice modifiers (and also serve as a nice change of pace from a game requiring actual currency to unlock things).

If it sounds simple that’s because it is, and that’s thankfully why the whole things works. As so many of us are children of the multimedia age, our minds are backed up with movie quotes and song lyrics that were previously only useful for the occasional misguided karaoke adventure, or casual slip in to everyday conversation. “Sing It, Say It” provides a competitive forum for that knowledge, and does it with a simple system that never hinders your experience. While that is an experience that I find is best enjoyed with a group of personal friends as opposed to a random online gathering (much like a “Rock Band” session), if you have that group of equally pop culture obsessed buddies available, it’s incredibly fun to find yourself in a forever-ongoing back and forth of “spot that reference” with a well implemented reward system furthering your efforts.

While it would have been easy for “Sing it, Say it” to be a soulless “Draw Something” knock off, instead it feels like an idea that was spawned by a simple gathering of friends wanting to share a game of trivia we’ve all played before with others as well. It’s not quite as dynamic and addictive as the mega hit “Draw Something,” but that casual fun feeling that frames the entire experience is more than enough to have me singing this apps praises, and saying that it’s my app of the week.

  

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