Welcome to this week’s gaming edition of iOS Gems! Today we take a look at a fun 3-D puzzler, as well as the HD version of Apple’s current iPhone Game of the Week, and a throwback wrestling title. In a standalone review, we’ve also looked at the large collection of games in Warner Bros.’ Midway Arcade.
Of the three new titles, Blueprint 3D HD is worth considering. All three games are designed for iPad, but have various iPhone/iPod touch versions available, while Midway Arcade is a universal app.
Although the concept behind FDG Mobile Games’ Blueprint 3D HD ($3, version 1.2) for iPad isn’t wholly unique, the game is a well-executed take on a fun game style that will likely become much more popular in the near future. Also available in a separate iPhone version—Blueprint 3D—the idea of the game is to rotate what appear to be just random dots and lines into properly oriented, fully formed images. There are more than 300 levels with themes including animals and technology.
The controls for the game are simple. Dragging with one finger moves the figure around in 3-D; you simply keep adjusting the figure, and eventually, a clear image will develop. Twisting with two fingers allows you to reorient the object until it’s facing the right way. The faster the level is completed, the more stars you earn, with three as the maximum per stage. Adjustable difficulty settings greatly increase the replay value of the game: while Normal is pretty easy, Advanced removes hints and gets rid of helpful labels, and Pro adds layers, a whole new element to the game.
Blueprint 3D HD’s graphics are quite nice; the backgrounds are photorealistic and all of the images are sharp. Although the developers seem proud of the instrumental soundtrack, we think it’s a bit repetitive, and doesn’t add much value. What we are impressed by, however, is the sheer number of puzzles, which is practically tripled by the three levels of difficulty. This game will give you several hours of play across one mode, but is also perfect for picking up for five minutes at a time. It’s a lot of fun. Although we’d prefer a universal version, this one still earns our strong general recommendation. iLounge Rating: B+.
Munch Time HD ($2, version 1.0) is the full iPad and iPhone universal version of Gamistry’s first App Store game; the universal Munch Time Lite and iPhone-only Munch Time are available as separate downloads. This title follows the now-familiar pattern of collecting three items—in this case, stars—while getting your character to a worm endpoint to complete each of the 42 levels. While that aspect of gameplay isn’t original, the swinging mechanism that moves Munch the chameleon around the board is.
Munch Time HD is spread out over the brightly-colored worlds of The Terrarium and Mystic Lake, each with 21 levels. The player can make Munch walk by tapping anywhere on his current plane, but this action isn’t used very often. Instead, the main transport system is the series of flowers spread throughout each setting. Touching an open flower causes Munch’s tongue to shoot out and pull the lizard towards it, swinging with momentum based on location. The game starts with simple white-pedaled flowers, but gradually adds different kinds with different abilities in the second world: pink flowers spin Munch around like a windmill, while black ones turn into cannons, and those with wings float up towards the sky. Their colored center comes into play as well; the character can only latch onto flowers that are the same color as him. To change his hue, he must eat colored flies around the level.
We found the gameplay to be less fun than we expected, and too easy. Players can advance past any level by simply eating the worm, but even while trying—and mostly succeeding—to get three stars in each level, we were able to beat the game in one rather brief sitting. While we think more levels are a necessity in extending the playing time, a steeper difficulty curve would make beating the later levels take more time and feel more rewarding. The graphics are what we’ve come to expect from many casual iOS games, with a cartoony forefront set against a static background that renders nicely on both the iPad and the iPhone 4/4S with its Retina Display. There’s no real soundtrack to speak of, but rather just a bright looping melody. We do appreciate that there is a universal version of the game available, even if it is the more expensive HD version, and we’re also big fans of the iCloud syncing that happens in the background: progress is automatically saved between whatever devices you may be using, allowing you to pick up from wherever you left off. Every title, especially universal ones, should be taking advantage of this feature. Ultimately, we had a bit of fun with Munch Time HD, but it’s just an OK game that falls short of our recommendation. iLounge Rating: C+.
THQ’s WrestleFest HD ($4, version 1.01) for iPad is based on the arcade game from 1991, and available in several different versions, although each is device-specific. Also available for iPad is WrestleFest HD Lite, while WrestleFest Premium and WrestleFest Lite are designed for the iPhone and iPod touch. As we’ve said before, this kind of fragmentation remains frustrating, unnecessary, and detrimental to the consumer. As the name implies, WrestleFest HD is a wrestling game, and it’s based on the famous WWE franchise. The flat 2-D graphics look to have been upscaled from the arcade title using a unique cel-shading interpolation process, jumping from 16-bit-quality to something between 16- and 32-bit consoles. If it wasn’t for its official licensing, we have a feeling that this game wouldn’t even pop up on most players’ radars, which wouldn’t be a major loss to anyone.
We could talk about the roster of wrestlers, both new and old, including The Rock, John Cena, and Jake “The Snake” Roberts; additional characters such as the luchadore Rey Mysterio have been added as well. We could talk about the different arenas and match types, or the Road to Wrestlemania ladder series. The truth is, however, only the most die-hard fans might care about these factors, and it’s likely that even they won’t. Regardless of which character you choose, which level you’re playing on, or which game type, each bout is an almost identical exercise in imprecise on-screen button mashing—the sort of gameplay developers used to toss into coin-chomping arcade games is ill-suited for iOS devices. On a positive note, there’s a virtual joystick in the bottom left corner that does actually work pretty well. Opposite that are red and blue buttons that are used for all of your actions: punching, kicking, running, pinning, and special moves. This overly simplified control scheme makes any real skill or talent negligible. More often than not, the characters end up grappling until one of them breaks free and pulls a move on the other; as far as we can tell, the best way to do this is to press both buttons as quickly and as much as possible, and hope for the best. Each wrestler has a health bar at the top of the screen, but even when it’s empty, pinning attempts almost always fail without any real indication as to why.
While we don’t begrudge THQ for the use of early 90’s-styled graphics as it’s trying to stay true to the original, the animation remains old school flat, and really leaves something to be desired: it’s stilted and blocky rather than smooth. The menu music is a fun 16-bit throwback, although there’s no soundtrack to the matches. Instead, it’s the constant roar of the crowd and some sound effects from the wrestlers themselves. Although some people certainly have nostalgia for a time when games were much simpler, putting out a subpar game under that pretense is no excuse. THQ really missed the boat on the opportunity to upscale the gameplay with this one, and hurt its customers even more with such a convoluted pricing structure. Even for wrestling’s biggest fans, we can’t recommend this title. Regardless of how accurate it may be, this is a pretty bad game. iLounge Rating: D+.