iOS Roundup: Chemical X Edition

It wasn’t a great week for iOS, especially in what would pass for the AAA market. Miitomo was probably the most significant event, and let’s face it, do we really need to give the Internet gaming community yet another outlet for their trash? Once again, Nintendo’s late to the party; they’re going to figure out that the Internet gaming community largely consists of manchildren who can’t be trusted with anything.

Powerpuff Girls: Flipped Out!

Sugar, spice, and everything nice. These were the ingredients that Grumpyface used to create the perfect Powerpuff Girls game. Unfortunately, they forgot to buy the Chemical X. Thus, Flipped Out! was born! That’s a lot of exclamation points!!

There are two modes: Sugar and Spice, and you can switch between them at any point during a stage. Sugar mode is a clever twist on the match-3 formula: the girls are all on the grid and you have to send one of the girls to grab and throw an enemy so he ends up as part of a match. You can also chain-throw enemies, so there’s a bit of strategy in trying to get the girls positioned correctly.

Spice mode is the action mode that isn’t as polished. The controls are fine in theory: tap on a girl to select her, tap an empty space to dash there, tap an enemy to send the girl to attack, double-tap a space to tell all the girls to dash there. Unfortunately, they don’t work too well in practice: there’s no visual or aural feedback when you’ve selected an enemy to attack, so you’ll occasionally have situations where you think you’re going to attack an enemy, but your girl just sits around because you didn’t quite tap the enemy correctly. Once the game starts throwing larger enemies at you, it’s difficult to select a girl that’s “behind” the enemy because the enemy takes up the entire hot spot.

Control issues aside, the game is fun, it’s also just kind of blah. There’s a silly plot about the girls receiving a weird blocky fish as a present and overfeeding him, causing the blocky fish to grow out of control and start spawning smaller versions of himself, which are the enemies that you’re fighting throughout the game. It’s kind of interesting, I suppose, and I do appreciate that Grumpyface didn’t throw in long obnoxious cutscenes to tell this tale throughout the game. I don’t know. For 3 bucks, you probably can’t go too wrong, even if it is essentially stealth marketing for the new series.

There were also two licensed gacha games released this week: Tales of Link and Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ is not X. Both of them are your bog-standard gacha games without a lot of depth. Tales of Link has absolutely no polish whatsoever, with Japanese-only voice acting, an English translation that ranges from barely acceptable to awful, and a clichéd amnesia plot that the game feels compelled to shove in your face. It’s kind of a problem when the pre-battle cutscenes take longer than the actual battle itself. KH, on the other hand, has a ton of polish (as you’d expect from Square Enix), but it still suffers from unnecessary cutscenes.

The problem with these types of games is that the bar has been set so high by Puzzle and Dragons and Terra Battle, in terms of post-release support, general polish, and variety of units, that it’s tough to get excited about a new one. And it creates a self-fulfilling death spiral in the process: gamers are lukewarm about the game, so the company has a hard time justifying post-release support, so gamers tend to drop the game in droves, so the company has a hard time justifying post-release support, etc., etc., until the game spirals down into oblivion. I have no idea what Bamco plans on doing with ToL, but given some of their previous business decisions I suspect it won’t be good. Square Enix has some vested interest here, with Kingdom Hearts III on the horizon, plus a decent track record of post-release support. If I had to choose one to throw my hat behind, I’d pick KHXINX, but I don’t see either of these games having legs.

Oh, and before we forget:

HAHAHAHAHAHAH.

You know at Sony of America they’re all like, “Um, Vita guys sit over there. This table is for the console that people actually buy. As if!” The Vita is the Zoidberg, the Meg Griffin, the Cleveland Browns of the PlayStation brand.

Next week should be a bit better, with Warbits finally getting a release, and hopefully the Lost Socks update and Romancing SaGa 2 on the horizon. The best part of Romancing SaGa 2 is that now I don’t feel compelled to buy Bravely Second, also known as babby’s first JRPG. Plus, I still have TWEWY Solo Remix to keep me busy.

iOS Roundup: The FOB Edition

Once you get tired of supporting microtransaction-laden, freemium, pay2win, exploitative games that are bringing down the entire industry and turning everyone into filthy casuals, try these complete, pay-once-and-get-the-whole-experience games instead. If you have enough money after buying all your FOBs, of course.

Lara Croft GO

  • Cost: $4.99
  • Exploitation Rating: 2 FOBs out of 5

Square-Enix’s second game in their board-game-inspired GO series follows Lara Croft as she explores the ruins, fights off baddies, and collects treasures. It turns out that Tomb Raider actually translates very well to a turn-based format and it controls surprisingly well. The only controls are swiping to move and tapping an enemy to perform a ranged attack if you have an appropriate weapon, although it could be a little clearer that you can do the latter. Enemies are shaded white if you’re in range to target them with a ranged attack, which can be a bit hard to see in some of the environments.

Here's a random screenshot taken from the game's iTunes page.
Here’s a random screenshot taken from the game’s iTunes page.

What I like most about the game is that it’s designed in a way that you don’t need tutorials, because every new obstacle is introduced in a way that you can safely observe how they move and how Lara can bypass them. Once you’ve been properly introduced to the obstacle, the game then challenges you to solve various puzzles, using what you observed the first time. It’s a clever design that isn’t really seen too much these days.

Dungeon of the Endless

  • Cost: $4.99
  • Exploitation Rating: N/A

This is a rogue-like tower defense hybrid, according to the developers, Amplitude Studios. Unfortunately, this game requires an iPad 3 or newer, which I don’t have. But people I trust have spoken of it very highly, so well, here it is. Here’s a random screenshot:

Looks pretty good, right?
Looks pretty good, right?

Alphabear

  • Cost: Free
  • Exploitation Rating: 1 FOB out of 5

Alphabear: Word Puzzle Game is a cute little word game featuring adorable little bears that will help you increase your vocabulary. You can bring up to three bears, with each bear having it’s own way to help you gain points. For example, the Fore Bear gives you bonus points for 4-letter words, and the Easy Bear gives you bonus points each time you use E, A, S, or Y. If you use all the letters on one side of a bear, it expands; larger bears are worth more points at the end of the game. If you don’t use a letter, though, it’s worth fewer and fewer points, and if the value drops to 0, it turns into a rock, which blocks the growth of your bears. Try to avoid that.

The best part of the game, though, is the Mad Libs-style rewards screen, where the bears say weird things based on the words you scored during the game.

Galactic Keep

  • Cost: $3.99
  • Exploitation Rating: 0 FOBs out of 5

I haven’t had time to play this game yet, but people I trust have spoken very highly of it, so well, here it is.

Take a bold step into the world of GALACTIC KEEP, a science fiction RPG adventure game the likes of which you have never played before! NOTE: Requires iPhone 4s, iPad 2 or iPod Touch 4th gen and later.
– The iTunes page description

And again, here’s a random screenshot:

Looks pretty good, right?
Looks pretty good, right?

Fiesta Update #4, #5, and #6: The Procrastination Edition

Just pretend that the enemies are a bunch of animated grass and that my party is much weaker.

When we last left our team, we had just slain Archeoavis, failed to save either the fourth crystal or King Tycoon, and gained our fourth job, bought with King Tycoon’s blood. We kinda suck. Galuf finally regains his memory and before he can regale us with wild stories of his youth, he runs back to his world.

The group decides to follow him, but it requires us to visit each of the four meteorites and have some miniboss battles. I easily wipe out the Purobolos with Aqua Breath, but Manticore and Titan both give me some trouble. ???? again remains an amazing offensive weapon, easily out damaging my weapons. I have no defense against Titan’s Earth Shaker, other than keep my HP high and hope he doesn’t use it too often. Better lucky than good, I guess.

Upon reaching Galuf’s world, we’re immediately captured and taken to Exdeath’s Castle. Fortunately, Galuf comes and bails us out. I didn’t take very good notes on this section, but I do remember that RNGesus saw fit to bless me with many Nightingales through the Big Bridge and the fight with Gilgamesh. I finally pick up Drain Blade, and now along with the Dragoon’s Lance ability, I finally get some reliable healing. I’m still missing a nice group heal beyond Nightingale, but hey, nothing’s perfect.

In the Moogle Village, I pick up a great treasure: the Dancing Dagger. I can’t make great use of it right now, but later there’ll be some opportunities to pick up some Blue Magic by confusing some enemies. We finally discover that Galuf is a king, and we meet one of his former colleagues, the werewolf Kelger, at Quelb. I like that he challenges Bartz to a duel and gets his shit wrecked. Must be Dorgann’s influence. Kelger agrees to open the gate so we can go to Drakenvale to get the dragon grass to heal Galuf and Krile’s wind drake. Fuck you, Kelger.

Just pretend that the enemies are a bunch of animated grass and that my party is much weaker.
Just pretend that the enemies are a bunch of animated grass and that my party is much weaker.

Drakenvale is not a place I like. There are way too many random encounters here and since it’s been so long since I played this game, I forgot that I needed to wander around the area until the floor collapses so I can open up the path. There’s an event where you save a Golem from a Bone Dragon and a Zombie Dragon, but since I can’t use the summon, I don’t bother to save him. Sorry, buddy. I get the Bone Mail here, too. I may have to use it later, but for now it stays safely in my backpack. It takes a few tries, but I finally get Death Claw to stick on the Dragon Pod, and then Aqua Breath sweeps them all away. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a screenshot, so here’s a random screenshot of someone else using Aqua Breath at a completely different section of the game. Thanks to Final Fantasy Wikia user Keltainentoukokuu for the screenshot.

Lenna poisons herself for the third or fourth time in the game trying to coax the wind drake into taking the grass. I know that some parents eat (or pretend to eat) the baby food so that their kid will eat it as well, but this seems like taking it a bit too far. Fortunately, the wind drake is stupid enough to eat the grass and Lenna gets healed before anything too traumatic can happen. We’re supposed to go see Sage Ghido, but Exdeath has the upper hand and blows the island away. Fortunately, we land close to Castle Surgate, the home of yet another of Galuf’s former colleagues, the mage Xezat. He’s not home right now, though; he’s leading a fleet to attack Exdeath’s castle.

We land the wind drake right on the ship. After a bit of talking, we attack Exdeath’s forces, leading directly to yet another confrontation with Gilgamesh. This time, he brings his partner Enkidu. Enkidu has White Wind and uses it frequently, but since you can’t confuse him, you can’t get it here, which is a giant tease. Gilgamesh himself is kind of a loser in this encounter; he can’t hit too hard and I get a few lucky Sword Dances from the Dancing Dagger, which pretty much crush Gilgamesh to dust. Xezat then reveals his true plan: the fleet is just a distraction to allow us to take a submarine to one of the towers that maintain the barrier around Exdeath’s castle and disable it.

Totes adorbs.
Totes adorbs.

The climb up Barrier Tower is actually pretty uneventful. I get the Blood Sword and the Gold Hairpin, fighting off four Yellow Dragons in the process, even though neither of them are that useful to me. I also pick up Off Guard from the Ziggurat Gigas. As a side note, isn’t Faris’ spell casting pose as a Ranger just the best?

On the next episode, we fight Atomos. Ugh.

Fiesta Update #3: The ???? Edition

Last time on The Adventures Of Team Blue Mage, we reenacted Fahrenheit 451. I think it’s okay if it’s clearly self-defense, though. The rules on these kinds of things are pretty unclear at times.

I cleared out Jachol Cave even though I can’t use any of the treasures there. It just seemed like the right thing to do. I do finally get to pick up the Ranger crystal, so now Bartz can have a stylish green hat and an AoE heal if RNGesus is on my side. (As we’ll see later, he was once.)

Embarrassing moment. I forgot where to go next, so my Black Chocobo and I pretty much flew around the world, flying to Istory and picking up Ramuh for no reason and then flying to Lix and getting a Bard song I can’t use. Fortunately, I remembered to go back to the Library. Unfortunately, I then have to cross the desert.

This is the easiest part of the desert.

A recurring theme for this update will be long dungeons filled with way too many random encounters. Everything in this dungeon dies horribly to Aqua Breath, including the Sandworm, so all I really need to worry about is dealing with these awful sand conveyer belts. And way too many random battles that provide no meaningful challenge whatsoever.

I don't remember anything about this fight. I don't even remember his name.
I don’t remember anything about this fight. I don’t even remember his name.

I finally have an airship! Too bad I’ve already went everywhere that’s worth going to! I pick up the Adamantite, fight a completely unmemorable battle against a turtle, and then get ready to fly up to the Ronka Ruins.

The Rocket Launchers and Flame Throwers are more obnoxious than I remember, but I learn Missile from the Launchers and that helps me wear them down before my lack of reliable healing becomes a problem. I beat Soul Cannon pretty much entirely by luck. I was able to kill off the Launchers with L5 Death before they could hit Lenna or Faris with The Missile Of Rapid Aging(tm) and then Bartz got Nightingale multiple times in a row, which pretty much nullified Wave Cannon. Lenna and Faris attacked repeatedly with Thundara-Blade and Galuf, well, he pretty much did nothing.

Ugh.
Ugh.

My reward for beating Soul Cannon is getting to explore another long dungeon filled with way too many random encounters. And to be taunted with White Wind when I have no way to confuse or control the Enchanted Fans. There are invisible walkways in this dungeon, which is a cute touch. At least you can tell where they are by the lack of grass at the edges of the floor. Finally, we confront King Tycoon and Archaeavis. Big Bird isn’t actually as bad as I remember, thanks to my impressive damage output. RNGesus didn’t see fit to bless me with multiple Nightingales this time around, but ???? deals so much damage with Lenna and Faris’ high max HP that he falls pretty quick before he can hurt me too much. To make up for Galuf’s lack of participation against Soul Cannon, I let him get the finishing blow with L5 Death.

On the next episode of The Adventures Of Team Blue Mage, someone becomes a Dragoon. And some other things happen, too.

 

Fiesta Update #2

Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Embrace The Glass.

Since my last update, I learned of an important change to Vampire from the GBA version. In the GBA version, Vampire deals damage equal to your missing HP, heals you for that amount, and works on any enemy. Yes, a full heal plus damage for only 3 MP. In the iOS version, though, Vampire deals damage equal to half of your missing HP, heals you for that amount, and is programmed to fail on bosses and certain other “heavy” enemies. On one hand, yeah, it probably needed a bit of a nerf. But on the other hand, this team now has very little sustainability against bosses or other “heavy” enemies. A lot of fights in this update get real dicey because of this. On a positive note, with ??? and Spellblade I hit pretty damn hard.

GarulaSo, when we last heard from Team Blue Mage, we were climbing up Walse Tower in order to watch helplessly as the Water Crystal gets destroyed. Apparently, we’re not that good of a superhero team. I totally forget to get Pond’s Chorus on the way up, so I struggle a bit against Garula. I do manage to blind him with Flash after 5 tries (totally justifying my decision to use a precious Ether), and by putting everyone in the back and sucking him dry with Nerfpire, he falls. This will be the last boss fight in a while that doesn’t get dicey. As you can see from the tweet, I got Mystic Knight as my Water job, and as I’m an equal-opportunity employer, I immediately give Faris and Lenna the job.

I'm an equal-opportunity kind of guy.
I’m an equal-opportunity kind of guy.

Next, we head to Karnak and I pick up my next significant offensive spell, the questionably-named ????, from the Wild Nakks in the forest. After a little misunderstanding in Karnak, I’m thrown in jail, and after meeting Cid (who is required by law to appear in every Final Fantasy game), I get the wonderful opportunity to travel to the Fire-Powered Ship. Oh goody.

The Fire-Powered Ship has an annoyingly high encounter rate and you frequently get thrust into additional battles with Motor Traps after you finish a fight. The only benefit from the Traps is that you get Self-Destruct from them if you hit them with a lightning attack. I’m not sure when I’d actually use Self-Destruct, but it feels kinda good to have it. I don’t know why. Just in case, I guess.

Liquid Flame
The inspiring tale of what you can do when you can afford to buy a lot of Frost Rods.

The boss here is Liquid Flame, and he’s rough for this party because of Blaze, which hits everyone for pretty good damage, and as I mentioned before, I can’t use Vampire to heal up. So I take the wimpy way out and break two Frost Rods on him. I’m not proud. Okay, I am. Okay, I’m not. But I really am.

My healing options are now Vampire, which won’t work on bosses, and hoping I get Nightingale. Fantastico. Anyway, the escape from Karnak Castle is fun with a virtual D-pad. And by “fun”, I mean “awful”. I do manage to pick up Aera from Gigas and Death Claw from IronClaw and escape with two minutes remaining.

So now that the wall is destroyed, I head down south to the Library of the Ancients. I get everyone to level 16 and leave Faris at 15 so I can pick up L5 Death, and I break yet another Frost Rod on the Dhorme Chimera so I can pick up Aqua Breath, further increasing my impressive glass cannon-ness. Ifrit sucks hard, and I win pretty much by luck. I managed to Silence him with Spellblade early in the fight and from there Bartz and Lenna whittle him down with Blizzara Spellblade while Galuf pretty much sits there and throws Potions that do practically nothing. Way to go, old man. Byblos, on the other hand, eats a Death Claw and then dies horribly.

Next time, we finally get my Fire job!

The Fiesta Begins!

FFV Title Screen

Four Job Fiesta has begun, and I get Blue Mage for my first job. At least I can equip (and therefore, break) rods, which should help later. After I get my job crystal, I’m greeted with what I can only describe as superhero costumes.

Team Blue Mage
Team Blue Mage, ready to go!

(Incidentally, I find the sprites in the iOS version to be vaguely irritating in a way that I can’t quite put my finger on.) I pick up Goblin Punch and Aero (after a couple of close calls) in the Wind Shrine and then backtrack to the Pirates’ Hideout to get Vampire. Goblin Punch essentially replaces my Attack command for the first few hours of the game and Vampire allows me to save money on Potions.

I must have been the same level as Karlabos, because Goblin Punch hit for about 260 damage, three-shotting him. After that comes the first major test, the Ship’s Graveyard, and since I forgot to look at what was coming up, I’ve got 2 Potions and a long dungeon full of monsters that I can’t use Vampire on. Maybe I should, like, prepare or something, I don’t know. Luckily, I can two-shot each enemy group using Aero, and as long as I select targets fast enough (which isn’t easy, even on an iPhone 6 Plus), I manage to keep my team relatively healthy.

Siren
A close call, but Siren falls.

Siren hurts me bad, especially because I’ve only got Aero and not enough Antidotes. Fortunately, Faris manages to live long enough to kill her with Aero. (By the way, Vampire didn’t work on Siren, even when she was “normal”. iOS bug or did I just forget that part?)

I pick up the Ice Rod in Carwen, but I’m going to wait until I get my other jobs before I decide where I need to use it. The North Mountain is fairly uneventful, although trying to maneuver around the poisonous flowers is kind of dicey with a virtual joystick. I get Flash from a Headstone, using up a precious Ether in the process, which pretty much trivializes Magissa and Forza.

On the next episode of Steve & The Vaguely Irritating Superheroes, I climb up Walse Tower and get my second job. Stay tuned!

iOS Week in Review: The Four Job Fiesta Edition

I’m going to be doing Four Job Fiesta this year, even though I haven’t played Final Fantasy V in about 8 years. This has the potential to get dicey, but the iOS version was on sale this week, and hey, what’s the worst that could happen? Wish me luck!

Fallout Shelter

It was a stroke of good fortune that the Shenmue 3 Kickstarter and stomach-turning things like The Last Guardian and the Final Fantasy VII remake were also announced at E3, because otherwise the sheer audacity of announcing a mobile game during E3 probably would have caused the complete annihilation of the gaming world forever.

Brand-name recognition (and the resulting appeal to non-mobile gamers) probably contributed a lot to the success of this game so far, as the game really isn’t anything special and it’s nothing that mobile veterans haven’t seen before.

I think the biggest issue with the game is that it starts strong and quickly sputters out. You start out with a good number of caps and lots of dwellers, and you’ll probably get a few more caps from the lunchboxes you can earn by completing randomly-assigned challenges, but it eventually peters out. Once that happens, you need some luck to get your engine going again because the only reliable way to get more caps (and therefore, more rooms) is to send your dwellers out to explore the Wasteland, which has three issues:

  • It’s dangerous if they don’t have any gear, which again comes back to the lunchboxes.
  • It takes way too long to gather enough caps to build one room and then you have to wait for them to return.
  • Every dweller you have out in the Wasteland is one fewer dweller to actually work the Vault, generating the power, food, and water you need to keep the Vault going.

Because of this, and the fact that you don’t use resources while you aren’t playing, and the fact that you can’t really play the game in any meaningful way anyway, your best bet is a very hands-off approach to managing the Vault: check in every few hours, collect your resources, and then leave them be.

Card Crawl

Card Crawl isn’t technically a new game, but it did have a significant content update and a big sale this week, and since I didn’t play it when it was new, I figured it could still count for this week. This is a fun little dungeon crawler played with a standard deck of playing cards, with each suit representing monsters, equipment, coins, or potions. Cards are dealt four at a time, with new cards being dealt when one card remains on the table. You have three slots to hold cards, your two hands and a backpack, and once a card has been placed in one of your hand slots, you can’t use that slot again until you use the card. Because of this, it’s important to plan ahead, as you may be forced to discard useful cards or take damage if you can’t clear your hands.

Discarding cards isn’t always the worst thing, though, as discarding equipment and potions gives you coins equal to their value. The more coins you bank during a game, the higher your score, which creates an intriguing dynamic: You need to use equipment and potions to stay alive, but you’re also trying to get high scores by throwing away useful items. Coins can also be banked between games to purchase special ability cards which have powerful effects such as temporarily returning cards to the bottom of the deck, dealing damage equal to the life you’ve lost, and causing creatures to attack each other.

While Card Crawl doesn’t have a lot of depth to it, the nature of the game makes it a fun little time-waster in between “serious” gaming.

Xenowerk

While Xenowerk doesn’t bring anything new to the genre, it’s still a fun twin-stick shooter. What more could you want? I mean, besides more words about the game itself.

iOS Week in Review: The Downgrade Edition

If the Witcher 3 downgrade has you bummed, pick up your iOS device instead. None of these games have had any graphical downgrades, nor have any of these developers ever misled you about the graphical fidelity of their games.

Ire: Blood Memory

Ire is the game you would get if you combined the aesthetics and the combat of the Souls series with the endless farming of Monster Hunter. Your attacks feel nice and weighty; it’s just too bad that some of the weightiness leaked out into the interface. The game does a poor job acknowledging button presses, which can lead to a lot of moments where you can’t be too sure if the game has froze up or if the connection to the server is lagging.

Actually, now that I think about it, there’s a lot of similarities with Monster Hunter. You’ve got a 5-minute time limit for each of your quests, and they all revolve around taking down a tough monster. The game also uses the same skill system as Monster Hunter, where each piece of equipment allots a certain number of skill, and if the combined skill points of all your equipment, including your accessories, reaches a certain number, that skill activates. As I mentioned earlier, though, the most striking similarity with Monster Hunter is that you’ll be running these 5-minute quests a million times to get the right number of parts to upgrade your equipment.

There are IAPs, but I can’t figure out exactly why. You can’t use them to buy anything useful such as the parts you’ll need to upgrade your gear, so I guess the only reason to spend money on the game is if you really want to support the developer. And since they’ve never lied to you about the graphical fidelity of their game, maybe you should consider it.

Dragon Blaze

Gamevil knows their audience.
Get used to this sight.

Upon booting up the game, this is what you’re greeted with. Gamevil clearly knows their audience.

Dragon Blaze is actually kind of short on actual gameplay: enemies and allies autonomously (as the game puts it) attack and use their skills, and all you can really do is tap to select a character, use a skill, then wait for that skill to come off cooldown so you can tap it again.

Instead, the meat of the game is the metagame: collecting allies, equipping said allies, enhancing said allies and said equipment. It scratches a weird kind of itch, and the nature of the game means you can play it effectively even when you’ve only got a few minutes. Or if you’re only using 10% of your brain.

While the game does feature some creepy sexualization of young-looking girls, at least Gamevil had the good sense not to lie to you about the graphical fidelity of said young-looking girls.

Fearless Fantasy

RTFFT
RTFFT

Do you like QTE battling? No? Okay.

Knights of Pen & Paper II also released this week, but I was too busy playing Dragon Blaze and The Witcher 3 (while crying my eyes out over the downgrade, natch) to give it a proper try. Maybe next week.

Big Week For iOS

Hearthstone for iPhone was the most noteworthy (and most anticipated) release of the week, but there were a couple more big releases for iOS as well. (Final Fantasy: Record Keeper was another noteworthy release from earlier this month, but unfortunately, that game was awful.) So get ready to burn your battery, because there’s a lot to play this month.

Implosion: Never Lose Hope

The developer, Rayark Inc., describes this game as “bringing the AAA console gaming experience to mobile devices”. I’m not sure when the AAA console gaming experience began to involve poor grammar skills, but at least they hit everything else on the nose: a lot of talking about “first-class voice acting” and “orchestral scores masterfully mixed by Grammy Award winner and “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy engineer, John Kurlander”, not a lot of talking about the gameplay.

Fortunately, the game manages to hit a good majority of the AAA gameplay as well. It’s a relatively mindless hack-and-slash, with some timing-based combos mixed in. You can temporarily switch to a ranged weapon by sliding the attack button, and there are special attacks you can activate when you’ve built up your gauge by using regular attacks. The game tries to add replay value by including special challenges to earn badges, such as not using ranged attacks, never getting hit, or not using your special attacks.

Despite this, the game is actually pretty entertaining. The controls are responsive and the game does look and sound pretty nice, especially if you’re lucky enough to have an iPhone 6 Plus. Ten bucks is a lot to ask in the mobile space, but it’s still worth a try.

Mortal Kombat X

More like Mortal Kombat Why, amirite?

Seriously, though, this is pretty much Mortal Kombat combined with P&D’s collecting aspects. The controls are pretty simple: tap to attack, hold with two fingers to block, swipe to activate combo finishers, perform various QTEs to activate special attacks.

It works as a game, and it does seem like Warner Bros. is going to support the game with new content and special events. It’s just, why?

Hearthstone

I was impressed with how Blizzard managed to work the UI onto a phone’s screen, although I’m lucky enough to own an iPhone 6 Plus. It would be doable on a regular iPhone 6, but it could get ugly on an iPhone 5 or earlier.

Since I never played Hearthstone until now, I can’t really comment on how the UI feels compared to a tablet, nor can I really comment on how the game itself is played. If you want free wins: cottontail#1998.

My iOS Top 5 List For 2014

2014 saw a ton of great releases for iOS. Too bad I didn’t play most of them, although with Pocket Gamer’s advent calendar and a number of Christmas sales, that should change. So without further ado, here’s my top 5 iOS games from the year 2014:

1. Terra Battle

This game got me to quit Puzzle & Dragons, which is a pretty impressive feat if you know me. Terra Battle is essentially a combination of a board game and an SRPG, with enough twists on its basic gameplay loop to keep things fresh. Kudos to Mistwalker for delivering a game worthy of their pedigree, and the soundtrack proves that Nobuo Uematsu still has it.

2. Vainglory

More than just a pretty tech demo for Metal, this is a competent and well-designed MOBA. It’s simple enough to be a good introduction to the genre, and yet the jungle gives it enough tactical depth to be interesting. If Super Evil Mega Corp can keep pushing out unique characters, this game could have a lot of teeth heading into 2015.

3. Monster Hunter Freedom Unite

It shouldn’t work at all, and yet, somehow, Capcom managed to pull it off. Much like how Vainglory was a great game to show off iOS 8’s new Metal API, this game would have been a great game to show off iOS 7’s new MFi controller API. Even without a compatible controller, though, Capcom managed to put together a competent control scheme for a button-heavy PSP port.

4. The Nightmare Cooperative

One of Pocket Gamer’s advent calendar games, this is a dungeon crawler with a twist: though your party members may be spread throughout the level, they all move as one. Moving one character to safety may put another character directly into the line of fire.

5. Threes!

I briefly considered putting this at number 3 just for the novelty of it, but I figured my journalistic integrity was more important than a crude numeric pun. So anyway, back to Threes!. If you played 2048 or any of its clones, you know the drill, although as the title suggests, this game is based on multiples of 3 instead of 2. Unlike the stark commitment to minimalism of 2048, Threes!’s (is that awkward or what?) tiles have a bit of personality. It’s not much, but it’s nice.

Honorable Mentions

In no particular order: Bean Dreams, Chain Chronicle, Sky Force 2014, Brothers in Arms 3, Defenders.

Games That Likely Would Have Made The List Had I Actually Played Them

Again, in no particular order: Kingdom Rush Origins, XCOM: Enemy Inside, Card City Nights, Hitman GO, Monument Valley

All 5 games I selected have a couple of things in common. First, they work well with a touch screen-based control scheme (with a few hiccups in Monster Hunter). All of them present nice large interaction targets with good feedback to show which items are being interacted with, making them quite forgiving of the occasional mistouch. They work with the touch screen, rather than trying to force an awkward virtual joystick and buttons setup. (As a side note, that particular issue is what pushed the otherwise excellent Arcane Soul entirely off the list.)

Second, they’re not annoying with IAPs. In fact, only two of them even have IAPs to begin with, and in both cases the game is not really designed around trying to get you to buy them. (As another side note, this particular issue is why Brothers in Arms 3 only received an honorable mention and why Castaway Paradise makes me want to hurl.)

While it’s probably impossible to completely erase certain misconceptions from the minds of the gaming community at large, my Top 5 games of the year show that the platform can have deep strategic games that don’t have awful controls and don’t encourage you to pull out your wallet. And that’s something.