android games

[Review] Titanic’s Keys to the Past (Android)

All aboard for more Titanic-themed games! Let’s look at what’s available on the mobile market…

This next game review is for a game that is not that bad compared to what I have been playing lately…but it does have one major hiccup. I came upon Titanic’s Keys to the Past after having played a succession of very crappy “Escape the Titanic”-type games (I won’t waste your time on those…). Keys to the Past is a National Geographic game that I actually think is meant for children since Nat Geo have it up on their “Kids” website. I didn’t find the game immature; on the contrary, it was quite history driven, informative and entertaining.

You play as Lillian; someone whose family lineage has ties with the Titanic’s maiden voyage in 1912…Lillian’s great-great grandmother, Rosemary, was a nurse on-board the ship. The story goes that she tried, in vain, to save some people from certain fate, but they were in the third class area of the ship, and the gates separating class areas were locked up, preventing anyone in those areas from being able to flee to the lifeboats. Your great-great-grandmother did not have the necessary keys to open the gate, so she was not able to save those souls, and she too died, knowing she couldn’t save them.

Because of her family connection, Lillian is invited to the grand opening of the newly-built Titanic museum; a self-contained ocean-floor conservatory of the sunken ship. The museum conducts tours of what is left of the ship, with informative exhibits about the Titanic, including its history and information about the fateful night. While on the tour, she happens to find her great-great-grandmother’s half-broken medallion among the ruins of the ship. Upon this discovery, Lillian encounters the spirit of Rosemary, who tells Lillian her story and begs her to help her by going back in time to collect keys that will open the gates and save those people from certain death. To help her, Rosemary transports Lillian through time, back to 1912 via a mirror to allow her to search for these keys. You lead Lillian through the ship, exploring rooms and completing a variety of puzzles, to be rewarded with a precious key. Collect all six keys to fulfill Rosemary’s desire to save those people.

Let’s be honest: as odd as this game’s plot sounds, Titanic’s Keys to the Past was a gasp of fresh air compared to the flotsam of the last few Titanic games I have played lately. Each puzzle was, at the very least, easy enough to figure out. Puzzles vary from HOGs, to mazes, to “unscramble to picture,” to “match the images”. The puzzles were admittedly not difficult, but were a decent pastime, fun enough to play through. In some cases you are able to bypass a puzzle by playing a match-three game instead, but there is a catch in choosing it…you are told you need to match three items enough to gain 200 points in 2 minutes and 40 seconds – it’s harder than it looks! Why such a random time? You got me!

Probably the best part about Titanic’s Keys to the Past that added to the enjoyment of the game was the fact that I could SEE! Images were clear, even when zoomed in. This game is also a port from PC, and unlike game ports to the Nintendo handhelds that I have experienced as of late, this port to android is adapted well for touch screens.

With all the positive feedback I could give to Titanic’s Keys to the Past, I can only wish the game didn’t crash so damn much…Yes, yes, this game crashed…several times. Enough to really piss people off on the reviews on Google Play. I have no idea why there were crashes. If I were playing this game on my old android ASUS eeePad Transformer tablet, I might explain that it was me crashing – not the game (in its twilight years, everything was crashing on that thing), but, I have a Samsung Galaxy Tab A now with the latest OS – no reason for crashes. Keys to the Past crashed a lot, but thankfully it auto-saved, so not much was lost in the way of game progress. Despite this snafu, amazingly, I was a CHAMP, exercising patience and restraint with this game, seeing it to the end.

Titanic’s Keys to the Past costs ~$3.50 on Google Play…Would I pay for this knowing it has this crashing problem?…Hmm, let me be contrary, and say probably not. However! I have hope the developers fix this issue so I could get behind it fully. I actually don’t think this game is that bad…but it does need fixing…

2.75/5

Titanic’s Keys to the Past
Apar Games
2012

[Review] Monument Valley (iOS)

I love it when ‘fee and gaming collide…

A Starbucks recently opened on the college campus where I work. I am not a lover of Starbucks really…I mean I don’t refuse free Starbucks, but I don’t go out of my way to drink it. In any case, one day last fall a colleague of mine and I found ourselves in the line-up at this shiny new Starbucks. I had no plans to pick up anything; my colleague was after the 6-dollar spinach and cheese pastry. As we approached the cash, I noticed a sign that said, “Starbucks Free App of the Week!” along with a pile of little cards. What is this! I loves me free! I took one of the cards, and discovered it contained a free key code to a game I had never heard of before called Monument Valley. The graphic for the game intrigued me immediately so I thought I had nothing to lose by trying it out. The only barrier was that the key code given was for the game in the iOS environment. I am predominantly an Android user, but thankfully, I have access to an iPad at work, so I was able to use the key before it expired at the end of September. This was the first game I actually played on the iPad, and am pleased to say the experience was a good one. And as it turns out, Monument Valley was a pretty fun game.

I am not exactly sure what the story is behind Monument Valley, but it is a puzzle game where you lead your main character, Princess Ida, through and around beautiful, odd structures and mazes, in her personal quest for forgiveness. The puzzles remind me of the stylings of M.C. Escher (1898-1972), where every puzzle contains a visual paradox. With each puzzle your mind is constantly being bent around in an optical illusion as you tap around, leading Ida through each scene. Levers, turnstyles and strategically-placed buttons are available for you to control platforms and catwalks so that Ida can advance through a scene. The game’s mechanics are very much reminiscent of the Room and the Room 2 (games I reviewed here and here) where you are presented with a puzzle to solve in order to advance to the next room, as well as having the ability to interact with the scene, and move your perspective around to find the correct path you need to send Ida down. Stylistically speaking, keen eyes can’t deny drawing similarities to Kentucky Route Zero (a game I have reviewed previously), particularly in its use of muted colours and fonts. To that end, each scene is beautiful – vibrant, and visually appealing. GORGEOUS, in fact. With every scene, I almost want to take a screenshot, print it out and frame it!

Although a pleasant time-waster, my only real critique with Monument Valley (aside from an unclear plot) was the lack of a serious challenge. It was also a short game, as I completed all the levels in an evening. The game was designed for the iOS environment (it won Best Game for the iPad in 2014), then ported to Android, so I am unsure how it translates to Android. Regardless, Monument Valley is a very placid game, non-stressful, and a decent user experience. …And expensive – $5.99 in Google Play and Apple App store. So, if you can get it for free or at a discount, I recommend it!

7.5/10

Monument Valley
Developer: Ustwo
iOS / Android / Microsoft Mobile / Windows
2014

[Review] BADLAND (Android Tablet)

This game was recommended by Scott, WordPress’s Heavy Metal OverloRd. Thanks for the rec, Scott!

Free game on Android / iOS / Blackberry 10!* 

Traveling through a creepy forest and swamp as a fuzzy ball of a creature isn’t all it’s made up to be, especially when there are sharp objects ready to poke you, bolders to kill you and other clones of your kind that want to hang out with you. Meanwhile, sinister-looking rabbits look on beyond the bayou as you try not to commit suicide navigating gears of death that appear along the way. This is the main premise of BADLAND, a game available for free (with ads) that I played on my Android tablet.

The goal of BADLAND is to navigate your fuzzy buddy through the dark obstacle course that is his life. Along the way, he eats things that make him expand to twice his size, or reduce him down to a speck of dust. These abilities can aid him through certain sections along the course, but can also be a detriment, as in the case when he gets fat, he gets heavy an slows down. The side-scrolling belt-line landscape moves forward, and stops for no one, so if your fella doesn’t catch up, he dies. He also picks up other dudes of his kind along the way, which, if you manage to save any by the end of the course, you gain achievements. The courses are very challenging; one can expect to kill off their fuzzy buddy several times in a course, especially in the higher levels. The more you advance, the more violent the courses become.

The mechanics of this game are basically taking your finger and tapping the tablet screen in order to get your fuzzy bud to move and fly. This was a bit awkward for me, since I am a southpaw, and the instructions were telling me to tap the right side of the screen. I got used to things, and the game adapted well to me tapping the left of the screen, which was great. So, lefties: you’ll do fine with this game.

The look of the game reminds me of a very sinister Alice in Wonderland; fantastic and strange. The scenes are made even richer with an interesting soundtrack of birds, insects and frogs chirping.

BADLAND is a different kind of game – addictive for sure. At the same time, my sensitive side kept surfacing. Here was this cute fuzzy creature who was thrown into all kinds of shit, in very unforgiving territory, only to get murdered violently…seemingly on a loop. I have to admit, my moral compass spun around a couple of times thinking that I was basically this fuzzy dude’s savior, until I reminded myself: “Geez, it’s only a game, Sarca…” and that likely these feelings surfaced because the fuzzy dude is a cutie-pie. If it looked like the creature from Silent Hill, I might have had a different perspective!

At any rate, you can’t do much better than free*, and BADLAND gives you some decent challenges. Check it out!

7.5/10

*Free with ads. You can buy the no-ad version in game (which I didn’t bother with)

BADLAND
Developer: Frogmind
Released: 2013

[Review] Them Tiki Physics Puzzle Games: Somebody Stop Meeeee (IOS / Android)

Free Games on iOS and Android!

Lately, I’ve been living like it’s 2010, and playing games on my iPod Touch. That’s right, I’m reverting back to when my iTouch was my only link to mobile gaming…back before “Android phones and tablets” ever passed my lips.  As it is, I use my iPod as my primary music player. Going way back, I played some pretty decent games on that device, and most were free. I attribute it to my getting started into hidden object games as well as kicking my love for casual games into high gear.

My last gaming review, Amazing Adventures, reminded me of a free game I used to play on my iPod Touch called Tiki Totems. In Tiki Totems, you are given the task of protecting a little yellow statue. The puzzle gives it to you perched precariously on top of a pile of blocks, which you must remove strategically so that the fragile tiki lands gently on the ground. Think Jenga in 2D here. If that Totem drops to the ground, it breaks…and the Tiki gods don’t think that’s cool. They will erupt a volcano situated in the background, and you lose. Tiki Totems is not overly sophisticated but still stands today; some nice bright graphics and a cool jungle beat can be heard in the background as you solve puzzle after puzzle. This game is considered a physics puzzle game and has been my king of time suckage lately. Unfortunately for some of you, this FREE game is only available on iOS… so yay to you iPhone users!

…But don’t worry Android users, it doesn’t mean you are left out.

As it normally goes for me now, I often see if there is some equivalent game originally played on iOS now available on the Android. It’s natural…I have an Android phone, and don’t always carry my iPod around…Like I mentioned, Tiki Totems is not available on Android, but lucky for everyone, the creator of Tiki Totems took it one step further in developing its sister game, Tiki Lavalanche, and it’s a cool spin on the original Tiki Totem idea. And equally addictive.

In Tiki Lavalanche, you are now protecting a group of gold blocks, precariously perched on piles of temporary blocks hanging over a lava lake. You are to remove those blocks strategically so that each gold block falls onto one of the waiting permanent platforms just above the water line. You lose up to three of those blocks into the hot drink, and you awake the volcano god, who will unleash an erupting volcano on your ass. What makes this game even more fun and challenging is that some of the blocks have several behaviours – some bounce the objects, some are actually made of glass that break, tumbling down the whole works. There are even bombs you explode. Like Tiki Totems, the graphics in Tiki Lavalanche are brightly coloured and a similar exotic jungle drum soundtrack plays while you solve your latest puzzle.

Tiki Lavalanche is free to play – with ads. You can pay to play without them if you so desire; Google Play was going to charge me under $3. And best part: this game is also available for iOS users so everyone can enjoy this fun casual and seriously addictive game. I have become so obsessed with Tiki Lavalanche, that I have made sure to complete each puzzle without losing any blocks. It hasn’t been easy, but that is where my competative gaming nature comes to the surface.

See for yourself…try out a Tiki puzzle game today and get nothing else done!

Tiki Totems and Tiki Lavalanche
NoodleCake Games/ Spokko

 

[Review] Type:Rider (Android)

A while back, I talked about how I used to love designing my own fake album covers. That was just the tip of the iceburg. Truth is I used to be a graphic design junkie. I had my own website on Geocities (ftw!) and designed every graphic on there. I used to have a cheap-o design program called Paintshop Pro (which is like Photoshop’s step-cousin, six times removed) and used it to design many things, including my wedding invitations (yep, I saved a ton of money on those). I did eventually learn how to use the legit Photoshop all by myself. At any rate, in all the years I have done any graphic design, I never once thought, “Hmmm, I wonder where Times New Roman and Verdana come from…” No, to me, fonts were always like electricity and water – just there. The font is there to aid in creating and enhancing, but never needing an explanation.

So, I wasn’t expecting a history lesson on typography when I started playing Type:Rider, a game I played on my Android tablet. To that end, I’m not sure I took anything away from the lesson, but damn, it was a fun, challenging and a beautiful visual journey through a font’s history.

In Type:Rider you control two little black ink dots through obstacle courses fashioned around a particular era in typographical history. You are given one of three methods to move the ink dots around – physically moving your tablet left or right to roll the ink dots through the course, using actual on-screen key pads, or just using your thumbs to direct and jump. I used my thumbs while playing this game. Your goal is to collect each letter of the alphabet that is strategically placed throughout each chapter. The courses become challenging with each passing level, but the game itself is very forgiving. There are no time constraints, nor punishment for multiple “deaths”.

Epochs in typesetting history are covered in Type:Rider: Gutenburg, Claude Garamond, Dada and Futura to name a few. Each chapter is a feast for the eyes, if you can handle navigating through the game and not drop the ink dots while admiring some absolutely gorgeous scenery. Combine it with a cool score and you have a really interesting game.

I was mindful while playing this game not to press my tablet’s screen too hard with my thumbs, but it was sort of hard not to, as I found the controls were a bit to get used to. Type:Rider is available on multiple platforms, including iOS, Mac and PC, I wonder if the controls are better on those ports.

Overall, I would recommend Type:Rider, a nice casual game.

8/10

Type:Rider
Developer: Bulkypix
Released: 2013

[Review] The Silent Age Episode Two (Android)

October 16, 2014 release!

Some of you may recall back this summer when I wrote about a FREE FREE FREE adventure game for Android and iOS called the Silent Age Episode One, a game with an interesting story, tight graphics, awesome gameplay and atmospheric music. I even gave the game a 10/10, which I never do lightly. My only critique was that this game’s sequel was in production…and I had to wait patiently to see how the story ended.

Well, folks, the Silent Age Episode Two has been released, and it does not disappoint!

To recap from the first episode, Joe the Janitor works a menial job in an office building. He comes upon a dying old man in the building’s basement, evidently bleeding to death. The old man hands a time traveling device to Joe and tells him he needs to go into the past to save the future. But, first he must go into the future, which as he discovers, is a land of decay and devoid of humans.

In this final episode, the story continues with Joe on a mission to undo the damage. I realize now that not much can be said other than what was recounted in my first review of this game without revealing important elements of the plot. Let’s just say, if you are a fan of science fiction, this story would be right up your alley. Think of it as a quirky Michael Crichton point and click adventure!

That said, the Silent Age Episode Two is not a serious game. In fact, like in the first episode, your protagonist, Joe, is very much a normal dude with a sense of humour, and other characters mimic this as well, giving a little lift to a more serious plot, which is welcoming.

Speaking of this game being a point and click: again, the Silent Age Episode Two is a solid game- no hiccups on my Android tablet. Seriously, not a single game I have played on my tablet has been as solid as the Silent Age franchise. In terms of gameplay, there is not much difference between episodes. The graphics look awesome; this game is truly a work of art.

Finally, the Silent Age Episode 2 cost me around $6.50 CAD in an in-app purchase at the end of episode One, which to me is worth every penny considering the first episode is FREE. I mean, with this quality of game, the developers, House On Fire, deserve it. Congrats to them on a great game!

And to the rest of you: play this! You will not be disappointed!

10/10 !!!

The Silent Age Episode Two
Developer: House On Fire
Released: October 16, 2014

[Review] Shiver: Poltergeist (Android)

From the makers of one of the best* horror hidden object games ever created – Shiver: Vanishing Hitchhiker – comes its sequel, Shiver: Poltergeist, and it’s everything I had hoped for. Much like its predecessor, Poltergeist is atmospheric, mysterious and spooky. I certainly was anxious to play it, and excited when it recently went on sale on Google Play.

The Shiver series is actually a trilogy, which also includes the unsatisfactory and frankly inferior Moonlit Grove, a game I reviewed last fall. Poltergeist, the middle child in this series really continued where Vanishing Hitchhiker left off in terms of spooky imagery and gameplay and is a great addition to the Shiver franchise.

One day, you receive notice that you have inherited the Kengale Estate, a property on a private island that has a mysterious past. Sounds awesome sauce, until you approach the island by boat, and a big storm rolls in that never goes away. At first glance, the grounds look neglected. You are met by a kind butler who attempts to keep up the house, but the place is still a junk pile and in disrepair despite his efforts. You are free to tour the estate as you please, but as you do so, you have apparitions of a young unhappy woman. Every time she appears, strange phenomena take place – mysterious fires occur, mirrors shatter…In the story, you discover you have some semblance to a guy long dead who lived in the manor, and you spend the game trying to figure out who this woman is and how you are linked to her.

Shiver: Poltergeist was creepy in every way. Visually stunning, the game takes you to a macabre environment leaving you feeling unsettled and a bit frightened of what you might find. It’s a hidden object game with a bit of adventure attached. The game seemed longer than the average hidden object game (4 hours +), and the bonus gameplay at the end was a great surprise. Elements from Vanishing Hitchhiker were a nice touch, such as a flashlight that you use in pitch black rooms (scary!) or the old “look through the peephole to see another eye looking back at you” schtick (but, works every time!).

Aside from its imagery, what makes this game scary is the atmospheric music and sound effects. Listening to the game through headphones scared me enough to make me sweat at every turn, and heaven help me if I was playing in a dark room – gah! It sounded like a lot of work went into the game’s music – real piano, violin, and classical bass could be heard.

One element that I didn’t like terribly, that I found broke the mood of the game was when there was any voice acting. Total cheese. To be frank, it sounded forced and insincere to the story. I don’t say this often, but the game would have been better off with just subtitles!

Beside Android, this game is available on PC, Mac, and iOS devices. Overall, I recommend Shiver: Poltergeist, and place this game in the pantheon of great and scary hidden object games!

5/5

*I know, a matter of opinion – my opinion! hah! But, if you find a hidden object game that is even scarier then holla!

Shiver: Poltergeist
Developer: Artogon/ Big Fish Games
Released: 2012

More Shiver reviews:

Shiver: Vanishing Hitchhiker

Shiver: Moonlit Grove