Super Mario Run

Date Completed: December 17th, 2016

It’s Mario on a Smartphone.  Naturally I purchased it immediately after it came out.  I was simultaneously extremely satisfied and very disappointed.  Interesting fact: “Satisfied but Disappointed” could be the official slogan of Nintendo fans.  I could probably make a decent living selling “Satisfied but Disappointed” T-Shirts outside of Nintendo events.  Nintendo has the annoying habit of making the best games in the world with the most irritating caveats. But I digress.

Endless runners aren’t a new genre.  What makes this one different?  In a word: Mario. Mario’s unleashed charisma has made a lot of people who aren’t usually interested in games interested in this game. Prime Example – My Dad. He wanted to know what the whole Super Mario Run thing was about. I tried to explain somewhat futilely:

Me: “He runs forward all the time. You can tap the screen to make him jump.”

Dad: “Is that it?”

Me: “If he jumps into a wall he can push off the wall and move in the reverse direction temporarily. Then he starts running forward again.”

Dad: “…”

There is no challenge.  You get multiple lives on each level and Mario automatically vaults over enemies and small pits.  Each time you play a game you can rest easily knowing that you will win. The only challenge lies in finding and collecting the hidden coins in each level.  Some are out in the open but others require some very specific timing to grab. There are enough coins in the game that I got bored and gave up before I was able to collect them all.

I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of content in this game. There are 24 levels, each with 15 hidden coins. You also have a world building mode where you can decorate the Mushroom Kingdom with various buildings and shrubberies. Most endless runners have repeating scenery and frequent prompts for you to spend more $$$. Super Mario Run has none of that.

My kids tried playing the game but were unimpressed. “He moves to fast” or “How do I go back?” were common complaints. I tried to explain to them the philosophy behind one handed play, the limitations of touch screen only controls and the need to support Nintendo’s experimentation on other hardware but mostly they’re only interested in playing games they find fun. Kids these days.

Overall I’d say that I don’t regret spending 10$ on this game. I can give this game no higher praise.

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 5/10
Length: ~3 hours
System: iOS
Genre: Endless Runner

Run Sackboy Run

Date Completed: February 2016

A few months ago my younger son found Run Sackboy Run on the iPad and decided that it was the greatest game ever made.  He had played it before but for some reason this time around it really clicked.  I knew it was a problem when I logged into the game and found that he’d collected all of the stickers and enough bubbles (which are currency in the in-game-store) to purchase everything but the most expensive items.  He started stealing the iPad when my wife and I weren’t looking and we’d hear the sounds of the game being played from his various hiding places.   He became very good at the game, better than I am in fact.  I think I could still edge him out by applying superior strategy, but he could certainly beat me in raw skill.

Starting out in the Football costume.

I had been holding off of playing LittleBigPlanet 3 until I had collected all of the cross-platform bonus content that was available for it in Run Sackboy Run but my son ended up collecting everything so I didn’t have much work left to do.  Instead I set myself a new goal.  I wanted to see how deep the rabbit hole went.  I knew about the first three levels – The Gardens, Avalonia and The Canyons – but what was further beyond?  I began preparing for an ‘ultimate’ run to determine the answer to this question.

Hearts can periodically be found during a run and can be exchanged for a continue after dying.  Unfortunately each trade-in costs progressively more.  The first trade in costs one, the second costs two, etc.  Collecting hearts is time consuming – it’s rare to encounter hearts in a play-through so I enlisted my older son to help find them. (I didn’t trust my younger boy – he had a habit of spending hearts as soon as he found them).  After many weeks I managed to save up 16 hearts which if you do the math adds up to six continues.  I also waited until I could get the auto-shield upgrade that will automatically save you from your first mistake.  I then played until I had a run that I thought was particularly good and began expending my hearts.

Running in The Canyons

After beating the canyons the game loops around and you start in ‘The Gardens’ again, although at night.  After ‘The Dark Gardens’ comes what the boys called ‘Evil Avalonia’ and finally ‘The Rainy Canyons’.  Even with six continues I was never able to determine what came after the second version of The Canyons.  It’s either because the game becomes infinite at that point, or it was just too dang hard to make any progress.  I did some research on the net but all I was able to determine was that I’d wasted a whole lot of time finding out nothing.

The only other comment I have about this game is that that Vita version is vastly inferior to the iOS version.  I played mostly on the Vita so that I wouldn’t have to compete with the boys for the iPad but the iPad version clearly ran with a much better frame rate and response time.  When my older son was playing on the Vita he regularly complained about the game not jumping when he tapped the screen, which is an experience I had as well.  Neither of us had this issue on the iPad.

Long story short – fun game.  Plus it’s free and can unlock costumes in LittleBitPlanet 3.  Give it a try!

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 6/10
Length: 1-100 hours, depending on your level of OCD
System: iOS / Playstation Vita
Genre: Endless Runner

Her Story

IMG_4795Date Completed: December 23, 2015

I bookmarked ‘Her Story’ in Toucharcade  when I first heard about it so I was informed immediately when it went on sale.  A few days prior to the sale the game had received multiple recognitions at the 2015 game awards so it seemed like a good opportunity to buy a good game at a discount.  I didn’t know a whole lot about the game but I suspected this was the kind of game my wife would enjoy so I bought it for her and put it on her iPad.  Thanks to the convenience of family purchasing I was able to install it on my phone as well.

After starting up ‘Her Story’ you are greeted by screen that looks similar to an old Windows based computer.  There is a single modal dialog in the with the world ‘MURDER’ typed into it.  You click search to find video clips that mention your search terms (a maximum of 5 results) and then you get to the interesting bit – watching videos and uncovering the story.

IMG_4796

The screen new players are greeted with.

I started the game a few days before my wife and then I badgered her to start playing because I wanted to talk about it.  The rabbit hole on this game gets very deep very quickly.  After she got into it she quickly surpassed my level of completion with the game.  We had fun sharing keywords with each other that would uncover additional videos and help reach 100% completion.

I can’t say anything else about the game because if you know anything about it whatsoever it is completely ruined.  This is the kind of game you can only play once.  Uncovering the story is what makes the game fun and after you know it all there is nothing left to do.  It must have been challenging to design a game that could be played like this and I think the the designers did a great job.  I’d say it’s worth the money and I highly recommend it.

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 8/10
Length: 2-3 hours
System: iOS
Genre: Interactive Drama

Hearthstone : Heroes of Warcraft

Hearthstone-logoDate Completed: August 20, 2014

Can you ever really beat Hearthstone?  Probably not but I did beat the Naxxramas expansion and I figured the game was worth a write-up.

I was invited to the Beta of the game but I didn’t think it was very fun because I was constantly getting stomped by the insane lunatics that make playing this game their entire life.  Without a single player mode there wasn’t anything for me to do in the game except lose.  I shelved the game for a long time until the iOS version came out.  One day, I was dorking around on my wife’s iPad and I noticed that Hearthstone was installed on it.  Since we share an iTunes account It had been automatically installed for her when I downloaded the game on the computer.  I asked myself, “What’s the harm in giving the game another try?”.  I created a new Battle.net account for my wife because I didn’t want to log in to her iPad with my account and got started.  After rushing through the tutorial the game gave her a pack of cards, which I opened only to find a Legendary Illidain Stormrage card.

Illidan_Stormrage(203)

The little Orange gem in the center means it is Legendary

NOT FAIR.  I’d opened several packs and had never found a Legendary card, and had only found one Epic card (For reference in Hearthstone it goes Common, Rare, Epic, Legendary).  The game doesn’t allow for the trading of cards, so my wife (who is unlikely to ever play the game) now had a Legendary, and everything I had seemed like absolute garbage in comparison.  This sparked my quest to get my own Legendary card.

Weeks later I found myself playing the daily Hearthstone quest for in-game gold.  I must have earned enough to buy dozens of packs of cards but I still didn’t have any Legendaries.  My wife was complaining I was playing too much – and she was right but when I obsess over something I go all-in.  I’d spent too much time now to give up now.  Then Naxxramas came out and everything changed.  ‘Common’ Legendary cards were offered as rewards for beating each wing of Naxxramas.  It was no longer hard to get a Legendary card – everyone had Legendaries!

Proof I cleared Naxxramas

I was thrown into a deep and dark depression, that lasted about as long as it too me to realize that it’s just a game and it doesn’t matter.  Nothing mattered anymore.  I gave up on my quest.  I continued playing, but my heart wasn’t in it anymore.  Some friends and I held a double elimination tournament, which I lost spectacularly and I found I didn’t care.  One day I resolved to quit playing the game entirely.  Then it happened…

Alexstrasza

 

I got a Legendary!! A legitimate, non-Naxxramas Legendary! It wasn’t a crappy one either, it was the card that was pivotal in many of the strategies for beating the ultra-bosses of the Naxxramas expansion. Unfortunately like many things in life, achieving my ultimate goal in Hearthstone was kind of a let down.  I played a few more times after picking up my card, and haven’t launched it since.  When the next expansion comes out I’ll probably be back for awhile, but I think my days of insane jealousy towards my wife’s Illidain Stormrage (Come On! She doesn’t even play!) and obsessive playing are over. For now, I have achieved my goals and I can lay this game to rest.

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 8/10
Length:  Eternal
System: PC / iOS
Genre: Card

Final Fantasy : All The Bravest

Date Completed : 1/25/2013

Final Fantasy : All The Bravest might as well have been called Final Fantasy : All Your Money Are Belong to Us.  I’ve been a long time fan of the series and I have played almost all of the titles released in the US.  Long time fans all know that the series has been in a steady decline.  I once took the time to graph the decline of the series using data from gameranksings.com, which proves empirically what we all knew anyway.

FF:ATB is played exclusively with frantic tapping.  You have a huge team of Final Fantasy archetypes (Warriors, Mages, Dragoons) to send into battle against monsters.  You tap on a character to make it attack and after a short cool down you can tap again.  Each of your characters is knocked out with a single hit but every 3 minutes you get a character back.  The only skill that is required is to avoid hitting the buttons along the bottom of the screen that exit battle and send you into the bestiary or the social network menu.

As you play you level up and unlock additional character classes.  For 1$ you can pay to unlock a random character from previous FF games.  I paid 1$ thinking I could choose one of my favorites (I was hoping for Terra from FF6) but I was randomly given one of my least favorite characters of all time – Baltier from FF:XII.

Baltier is in the top right. I hate that guy.

My boys really enjoyed taking turns tapping on the enemies for me but the game play wasn’t enough to keep me interested.  I would have given up on the game shortly after purchasing it except I spent money on this game so damn it I was going to play it!  Luckily the game is really short and doesn’t really require any mental effort so I was able to breeze right through it.  After finishing the game additional maps can be purchased for 4$ each, but I can’t imagine why anyone would want to spend 4$ to play this game longer.

The game does have it’s redeeming value (In the singular sense).  The bestiary has descriptions that can be quite humorous.

Ninjas are always good for a laugh.

All of the content for this game would set a person back over 50$.  For $50 I can pre-order BioShock Infinite or Starcraft II : Heart of the Swarm.  No one on earth should spend 50$ for the privilege of tapping on Final Fantasy characters.

If you enjoy boring games, wasting money and hating life then this may be the game for you.  If you are a rational, sane human being there are much better games for cheaper on the App Store.

Pros

  • Bestiary is good for a few laughs.

Cons

  • Not Fun.
  • Costs 4$.
  • Randomly Unlocking a Characters costs 1$.
  • Unlocking additional levels costs 4$.
  • Buttons are easy to accidentally click while in battle.
Is it fun: No
Score: 1/10
Length:  2 hours
System: iOS
Genre: Casual / RPG

Flapcraft

Date Completed : September 17th, 2011

Anything related to the Vikings in any way is automatically awesome so it was a foregone conclusion that when I heard about the game Flapcraft I would buy it.  The game is actually a tech demo created by the Pixelmator team to demonstrate the capabilities of their image editing software.

In Flapcraft you will be participating in the well known Viking pastime of flying through the air on a wooden log.  You get points for distance and you can spend the points to purchase upgrades to enable your log to fly faster and farther.  There are five difficulty levels with five challenges in each level that for the most part are not very challenging.  If you find yourself stuck on a challenge then upgrade your log and suddenly it becomes easy.

There isn’t a lot of content in this game, just a ramp and a log and a Viking.  It’s a pretty fun distraction for a few minutes but the only challenge I found remotely challenging was the final one which I eventually resorted to looking up a solution for online.

Flying past one of the many volcanoes in Scandinavia

While I am of the opinion that anything that contains Vikings is automatically awesome I can see how some people who are a little less thrilled about Viking awesomeness might find this game to be lacking.  The amount of time you’ll spend on the game is short for the price and the physics are pretty questionable.  If the Pixelmator team touches the game up a bit more and patches in some more content this could be a pretty fun distraction but right now I can only suggest this game to the brotherhood of vikings.

My Wife’s Take :

  • Is that Viking riding on a log?

Pros:
* Vikings on Logs!!!

Cons:
* Not much content for the price.

iTunes Link:
Flapcraft

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 5/10
Length:  ~1 hours
System: iOS
Genre: Sports

Infinity Blade

Infinity Blade is the first game (that I know of) that uses the Unreal Engine on iOS based devices.  I’m a pretty big fan of iOS devices, and I am a pretty big fan of tech demos so it was only natural that I purchased this game as soon as it became available.

The game has a very minimal storyline – basically you’re out to kill some bad ass ‘god king’ character.  If you die in your quest you’ll start over as your son, coming back 20 years later to avenge your death.  Each time you fail you’ll start a new bloodline.  I didn’t beat the game until after about 5 bloodlines, and then even after you win you can keep playing.  There are achievements for finishing up to 20 bloodlines.  It also appears that the developers left room to add more features, so this may not be the end of this particular game.

You have to kill more than just the final boss.  You have to battle several henchmen on your way through the castle, each with a slightly different playing style.  Each enemy gives different visual cues on what maneuver they are going to execute.  As you level up enemies level up as well and they start pulling more complicated maneuvers such as fake outs.  Combat is pretty simple.  Swipe your finger across the screen to use your sword.  You have a shield icon you can press to block, and you can dodge by hitting two arrows that are on the sides of the screen.  You also have magic spells and a super move at your disposal.  Each of these recharges over time.

When you beat the game you will be treated to an ending that I WAS CERTAINLY NOT PREPARED FOR!  All I have to say is whoa!

I played the game on both the iPad and the iPhone and it plays equally well in both environments.  The iPad was a little more difficult to play since the screen is larger and you have to move your hands so much further to hit the hot spots during combat, but it also made things easier to see objects on the screen.  The game works on either platform, so you don’t need to choose which one to buy (Unlike some other games in the app store).

Pros
* Amazing Graphics.
* Simple, fun game play.
* It runs on your phone.

Cons
* Touch control isn’t the best choice for this type of game.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 7/10
Length:  10 hours
System: iOS
Genre: Fighting / RPG