App of the Week: Joust Legend

Developer: Rebellion Games

Compatible with: iPad 2 and up,  iPod Touch 5th Gen, iPhone 4S and up

Requires: iOS 4.3

Price: $1.99

Available: here

I think I would have liked to have been a jouster. Sure I can’t ride a horse and am lacking in upper body strength, but my enthusiasm for wearing battle armor and charging at people full speed with vicious intent is second to none.

Sadly since jousting has gone out of fashion in the last several centuries or so, my passion for the sport is relegated to watching “A Knight’s Tale” far too often (it’s both the “Varsity Blues” and “Citizen Kane” of jousting movies), or trying to drunkenly recreate the activity at the pool to mixed (ok, just horrible and awkward) results.

Luckily a new app called “Joust Legend” has come along, and provides me the chance to test my skill on the field of joust, that up until now has been so cruelly withheld.

“Joust Legend” isn’t actually the first jousting game ever, but I can tell you it is the best playing, and by far best looking. The graphics on this app are some of the best the mobile world has ever seen, and are sure to turn heads wherever you take it, as well as constantly surprise you not just with the visual pop they provide, but with the well thought out and executed artistic design that enhances their appeal far beyond the initial wow factor.

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As for the gameplay, it’s as simple as can be. There’s really only three parts to the jousting mechanics (the take-off, lowering your lance, and hitting your target) and all of them are executed with very basic timed swipes and presses. As such you pretty much learn all there is to know about the core game on the first few goes, but really for such a concept, you don’t need anything more than that. The elements of timed control that are present fit perfectly within the basic set up of a joust, and though you may repeat the same movements over and over, the satisfaction of executing them perfectly never really goes away.

The system truly shows its value, however, once you take into account the multiple tournaments, challenges, modes, skills, and various unlockables there are in the game. Good mobile games usually provide you a simple, replayable, and addictive experience, but  the best ones always tack on another reason to keep coming back, and the torrent pace that you unlock new things to do in this game makes each already enjoyable session that much more rewarding.

This is one of those apps that may initially appear to appeal to a niche market, but deserves a download by anyone that appreciates well-made mobile action games that are easy to keep coming back to for short bursts of pure fun. Though the competition isn’t exactly fierce, “Joust Legend” stands alone at the end of the fight as the champion of jousting entertainment, and my app of the week.

  

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App of the Week – XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Developer: 2K Studios

Compatible with: iPod Touch 5th gen and up, iPad 2, iPad Mini, iPhone 4S and up (optimized for iPhone 5)

Requires: iOS 5.0

Price: $20.00

Available: here

There’s a lot to be said about “XCOM: Enemy Unknown” for iOS, but none of it can be said without eventually mentioning the price.

Yes, “XCOM” is a $20 gaming app, in a world where $20 can also easily translate to owning 20 gaming apps. This will cause many people dismay, or even fits of laughter.

But I’m not going to talk about the price just yet. Instead I just want to focus on “XCOM.”

XCOM” took the console and PC world by storm last year as gamers everywhere discovered the joy of running a worldwide alien defense organization, and commanding troops on the ground in tense and violent tactical operation scenarios. A revival of one of the most complicated and hardcore PC franchises of all time, “Enemy Unknown” somehow managed to find a way to maintain the things that made that series great, while also making the experience much more manageable and appealing to the more mainstream gaming market.

Of course the star of the game is its permadeath system. Much like last weeks “Sword and Glory” app, death is not only around every corner in “XCOM,” but when it happens you lose that soldier for good. This is made worse by how much you can customize a soldier to make them your own, and the hours you will inevitably spend leveling up your favorites. No matter how much time or effort you put into a character though, one false move and they are dead and gone.

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It’s a punishing system to be sure, but it gives the game an element of tension that would be impossible without it. Every decision matters in “XCOM,” whether it be on the battlefield, or in the management mode when trying to determine what countries to aid (you can’t save them all) and what research to pursue in order to manufacture new items and weapons. Every moment in “XCOM” is spent making these tough decisions, and as such success and joy are found not in glorious moments of gratification, but just through mere survival, and a chain of little moments that make up your 30+ hour playtime.

A glorious moment of success is to be found, though, the minute you boot up the game and realize that this is indeed the entire “XCOM” experience (sans multiplayer) on a mobile device. Sure the graphics took a very slight hit, but this is compensated for by some nice touch controls that add to the feeling of being the “Commander” character the game casts you as. While playing this on an iPhone over an iPad is not the most welcoming of propositions, again it’s the fact it even exists in that format in a playable manner that deserves recognition.

Ultimately though, even though this is still every inch of the original 2012 game of the year candidate expertly ported by 2K to a potentially hostile format, it does come back to the price. While $20 spent well is a fair amount of money, the fact is that $20 for this game is a steal, considering it means you’re getting what is essentially a console game at about a third of the original price, to take with you wherever you go. The price is all a matter of perspective, and in an app world where a “Free” game can easily set you back around $20 when you consider in-app purchases (of which “XCOM” has none) and usually are not of this level of quality, you really have to call this a case of paying an appropriate price for what you get.

“XCOM” defied expectations last year and made most of its fans out of people who never played this type of strategy game before, much less the franchise. With any of the luck I do not have when I play this game (my guys die a lot), this mobile version will do the same as it’s a near-flawless port of that all-time great strategy experience.

So get ready to craft a virtual graveyard of fallen soldiers, start seeing Chryssalids in you nightmares, and get addicted to “XCOM” all over again as it’s not only a perfect port, but my app of the week.

  

App of the Week: Wrestle Jump

Developer: Otto-Ville Ojala

Compatible with: iPhone 4 and up (optimized for iPhone 5), iPod touch 3rd gen and up, iPad 2 and up, Android devices

Requires: iOS 4.3 or later (Android version depends on device)

Price: $1.99 (free on Android)

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

When you really think about it, great gaming apps usually come in some pretty odd forms.

For instance we’ve seen apps that make ninjas slice fruit, or feature birds suicide bombing entrenched pigs set the world on fire, while glorified versions of Pictionary and Scrabble have destroyed free time and traditional social lives. It’s a history that should have taught me that at any time, from any concept, the next great gaming app can emerge.

Still though, I never would have imagined that a two button game with luchadores joined at the arms fighting to bash the other ones head would have been that game.

But wouldn’t you know it, “Wrestle Jump” is truly great.

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Though strange, the concept of “Wrestle Jump” couldn’t be simpler. You and a conjoined opponent (computer or real) battle for supremacy by trying to force the other ones head against the nearest solid object. Doing so gets you a point, first to five points wins, and you can add to the pandemonium by activating ice sections and wind.

The only control available to you in “Wrestle Jump” is a single arcade button (used to propel your character’s legs, and make them jump), but there is a layer of strategy involved that isn’t immediately evident. The game is really all about defense and momentum, as mashing the button as fast as you can usually results in losses, while timing and situational awareness win the day.

Yet, there is also a chaotic randomness to “Wrestle Jump” that negates even the best strategies. A hit can come at any time, which can be either highly satisfying, or incredibly frustrating depending on what side you’re on, but it applies equally to both players and rarely feels unfair. Instead, it lends an unpredictability to every contest that provides a part of the game’s appeal.

The bigger part of the game’s appeal though is the two-player mode. Hands down this is one of my all-time favorite mobile multiplayer games ever, and its due in large part to the fact that both players can share one phone (or better yet, tablet) to play it. It makes an already simple game even more accessible, and ensures that no “Wrestle Jump” round ever passes without a healthy amount of “Oohs and Aahs,” as well as abundant smack talk and sweet moments of victory. It’s everything you could ever want from a multiplayer game, and provides one of the greatest arcade style two player experiences since the golden age of arcade gaming.

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“Wrestle Jump” is an app you might play occasionally by yourself, but in the company of a friend becomes one of the most entertaining games of the year on any platform. It encourages a level of competitiveness that you don’t usually get from mobile games, and it does it without guns, cars, puzzles, or any of the other things you associate with the concept. Instead, this is head to head gaming distilled to its purest form.

Yes, “Wrestle Jump” is really that much fun. You could argue that its single player game is dull (it is) but you are never far from its multiplayer mode, and the sheer competitive joy it brings. Because of that mode, and with a little help from Google translate, I can confidently tell you that “Wrestle Jump” es mi aplicación de la semana.

  

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