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Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery review — Fun for a spell

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery

It’s tough to believe there hasn’t been a true Harry Potter RPG on mobile prior to Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery. It’s true that the film series goes back to the beginning of the millennium, well before mobile games were a thing, but there have been plenty of opportunities since then, and it’s only now, with a partnership between Jam City and Warner Bros.’ Portkey Games that we’re seeing one. Happily, Hogwarts Mystery is largely worth the wait for Potterverse fans and mobile gamers in general, as long as you aren’t put off too much by the way it makes you wait at times.

You couldn’t ask for purer wish fulfillment than the game’s main premise, which is that you are an aspiring witch or wizard who has just been accepted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Since the game is set in the ’80s, your education in the Wizarding World comes well before Harry, Ron and Hermione arrive, and characters lost during the movies are safely alive and well.

The early stages of the game whisk you through Harry Potter staples like getting a first wand at Ollivanders and choosing a house via an encounter with the Sorting Hat. The not very complicated game mechanics are also introduced, including tapping on people or things to perform specific actions, and casting spells by tracing specific patterns on your touchscreen. Later, these facets are mixed up to provide some variety, but whether you’re learning a new charm or brushing up on your flying, there’s nothing too taxing for your reflexes, making a Hogwarts Mystery a game that truly anyone can play.

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery

Alas, it’s also fairly aggressive with its energy system, which limits the amounts of actions you can take in classes or other scenarios. The game gives you generous amounts of time to complete some objectives — you can find tasks even in the first hour of play that allow eight hours for completion — but that’s mostly because you’re so certain to run out of energy. Hogwarts Mystery certainly feels like it’s going to be monetized off pure impatience, and there’s nothing all that magical about that.

Still, that might not detract all that much from your overall enjoyment simply because the overall Harry Potter experience is so immersive. This a truly story-driven RPG, with tons of dialogue (some of which is voice acted by the movie franchise’s stars, though your character is mostly silent), decisions that affect both the narrative and your relationships with other characters and what feels like it will be a sprawling story that takes you all the way through your school years. Add in the superb musical soundtrack and sound effects and the uniquely stylized yet still comfortingly familiar visuals, and it’s hard to imagine any Potterverse fan won’t at least give this a hard look.

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery

Yes, that means that Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery largely lives up to the hype with which it arrived, which in turn was driven by the fact that it has been a long wait for a title like this. It might not go down as the best Harry Potter video game ever, but it offers some stretches of fun that you won’t find anywhere else, and the guess here is that Jam City will be dreaming up more to throw into its world for some time to come.

The post Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery review — Fun for a spell appeared first on Gamezebo.

Woka Woka review – a marble shooter that stands out from the crowd?

Turtles are generally known for their defensive prowess, since they basically live inside fortresses. However, they can attack too, and if Woka Woka is anything to go by, they can also shoot marbles from their mouths.

If you’ve ever played a marble shooter you’ll know what to expect from Woka Woka’s core gameplay. The aim is to make matches of three or more of the same colour by firing marbles from a pivoting turret at a long, winding line of marbles making their way towards a hole.

Whenever you make a match of more than three, those marbles disappear. If you don’t clear them fast and the line reaches the hole it’s game over.

Even if you’ve never played a marble shooter like Woka Woka, you’ll be all over it in seconds. It’s an intuitive set-up and the first few stages are an absolute breeze. Not only do you finish stages easily, but you keep unlocking powerful items that you can never imagine having to use.

But around stage 20 things get significantly harder. Suddenly, you find you can’t keep the snake of marbles from reaching the hole.

This has the effect of forcing you to concentrate, and Woka Woka starts to come into its own when there are high stakes attached to every move and you can’t afford to falter even slightly in your aiming or your decision making.

You become aware that clearing a cluster of marbles only briefly creates a break in the chain. It closes fast, and choosing the right targets is everything. For example, you can inadvertently shunt a cut-off line of marbles into the hole if you slot a marble into it. Don’t do that.

Along with the standard marbles there are ones covered in ice. Before you can clear them you need to chip this ice away, leading to accuracy-testing moves where you have to aim your marble so that it hits the icy marble first before shuffling into the line on the right side to make a match.

And still you’ll struggle to clear stages without the help of a few little boosts and power-ups. Firstly, symbols occasionally appear on some marbles indicating that if you clear them you can slow, pause, or reverse the flow for a short time. But these symbols only appear temporarily, and as often as not you can’t get around to making a match before they disappear again.

Fortunately there are even more powerful boosts available, in the form of consumable items that clear multiple marbles at once. These include the tornado, the mallet, the cannon, and others. They’re highly effective, but you only ever have a limited supply, which is regenerated through completing quests, logging in daily, and generally progressing through the campaign.

Naturally, because Woka Woka is a free to play game, you can also buy stuff in the shop to help you out.

Developers often struggle to get the balance right between encouraging players to spend and letting them have fun for free. Some will no doubt feel that Woka Woka gets the balance wrong, flinging players at a wall of difficulty to encourage them to pay for boosts and lives, and watch ads.

There’s no doubt that Woka Woka is a very challenging marble shooter, and how far you can get before frustration sets in will be down to your own skill level. But if you want to test yourself, it’s worth a look.

Take on the challenge of Woka Woka yourself for free right now on Google Play and the App Store!

 

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Shot Online Golf: World Championship review – over or under par?

Most books are better than the film, and most sports are better than their video game counterparts. But there are exceptions, and golf is one sport that absolutely works better in the virtual world than the real one.

In real life, golf is inconvenient, expensive, weird, time-consuming, and stupidly difficult, which is why you’re much better off downloading Shot Online Golf: World Championship, the long awaited mobile spin-off of PC MMO Shot Online from Korean developer Webzen.

The competition is stiff in the mobile golf game genre, and at first glance Shot Online Golf isn’t doing much to bring the fight to established titles like EA’s King of the Course Golf and Com2uS’s Golf Star.

However, dig beneath the surface and there’s a lot to like for fans of the sort of deep free-to-play mechanics that KRPG developers do best.

But let’s start with the golf. The gameplay in Shot Online Golf will be familiar to anybody who’s played a golf game in the last ten years. Before taking each shot you can tap on the destination and make adjustments by sliding the pointer around with your finger. Then you set your power by pulling a slider down, and your accuracy by stopping another slider in the middle of its range.

Unusually, the power of your shot doesn’t affect the speed at which the accuracy slider moves back and forth. Even more unusually, you don’t have an accuracy slider at all on the putting greens—you just pick your power and direction and lift your finger to play a shot.

Both of these innovations make Shot Online Golf feel fairly accessible, but there are other senses it which can be quite harsh. If you land in the rough, your shot range will be severely limited, but you have no real idea by how much, so you have to use a golfer’s judgement in getting yourself out of trouble.

And the directional line on the greens doesn’t take slopes and bumps into account by default, which is fine, but unusual in the casual world of mobile golf. To switch on this line you need to use up one of your limited number of consumable lines.

You enhance your performance in two ways in Shot Online Golf: one, by generally levelling yourself up and earning better clubs and clothes. And two, by using boosts and skills. There are boosts for widening the sweet spot in your shots, slowing the marker that sweeps back and forth, and increasing the power, and you can buy these with gold.

Skills, meanwhile, are unlocked and enhanced as you work your way up through the levels. These include things like adding draw and fade, as well as giving yourself a momentary concentration boost, among other things, and they can all be upgraded around your preferred playing style.

You’d be forgiven for raising a suspicious eyebrow at the consumable boosts, but in practice they’re not an obstacle at all. You can get along fine without them, so there’s no real risk getting into a pay to win situation except in the most marginal contests. If you’re a better player, you’ll come out on top.

As you might expect from a KRPG, the upgrade ecosystem is fabulously intricate. Not only can you acquire new clubs and items of clothing, but you can upgrade them by cannibalising your spares.

Over time your clubs deteriorate, so you need to repair them intermittently with gold. To reduce the frequency of these repairs you can equip club covers, which you win through getting achievements and completing missions, or buy in the shop.

Every time you log in there are more things to do–as well as the missions, achievements, and general level-grinding there are events to join, all of which makes Shot Online Golf fairly addictive. There’s always something else to squeeze in before you put it down.

Everything in the game, from blending clubs to entering Betting Challenges, costs gold or rubies. Fortunately, you always have a ready supply from achievements and missions, along with the drip drip that comes from hitting perfect shots, putting, and so on.

The quickest way to acquire–and lose–a lot of gold is to play in Betting Challenges. If these are too rich for your blood you can amble through the Academy stages, or play a Short Game contest if there’s one available.

Actually, there’s a quicker way to acquire gold and rubies: you can buy them with your own money. However, there’s plenty to do in Shot Online Golf, so if you’re too low on gold to play in a Betting Challenge you can always do something else.

All of which will sound familiar to anybody who’s every played a KRPG. If you enjoy those, and golf games, you’ll no doubt appreciate the way Shot Online Golf builds a rich free-to-play ecosystem around a solid game of golf.

It may not have the casual arcade appeal of Golf Clash or the sim credentials of WGT Golf, but it’s a unique and enjoyable experience all the same. You can try it out for yourself via the App Store and Google Play.

The post Shot Online Golf: World Championship review – over or under par? appeared first on Gamezebo.

BarbarQ review – An intriguing blend of PUBG, Brawl Stars, and Agar.io

BarBarQ is an intriguing blend of three of mobile’s heaviest hitters. You’ve got the shrinking arena of PUBG, the hectic brawling of Brawl Stars, and the highly addictive multiplayer battling of Agar.io. But does it all combine to create the ultimate mobile game?

We’ll come back to that later. BarBarQ plays much like any other .io multiplayer battler. You play as an axe-wielding barbarian, and have to gather mushrooms dotted around the arena. These not only increase your size and statistics, but help level you up.

Every few levels you gain you can pick a perk that will boost you in a number of different areas. These come in two varieties: active and passive. The former you can unleash at any given moment, while the latter are always active.

When you first play you’ll just pick whichever one you think sounds best, but you’ll soon get a feel for your favourite perks. These range from providing healing whenever you attack to pulling enemies close when you get a good hit. It’s pretty varied.

So far, so Agar.io. But what BarBarQ actually does better than Agar.io, is the encouragment it provides to get stuck right into the action. Early games of Agar.io are typically tense, with you trying to collect as many balls as possible without being swallowed by a bigger ball.

BarBarQ turns this on its head a bit though. While collecting mushrooms should definitely be your initial priority, it’s often well worth attacking any opponents you come across. If you win, you’ll gain so many more levels than you would just by staying out of trouble.

Also, if you die, it’s no big deal – you can just respawn and keep going, which really does help you take risks. In the end, it just feels more full of action and excitement than Agar.io ever does.

But the real stroke of genius stems from how brief a game of BarBarQ is. Typically, a match lasts about three minutes, and the ever-shrinking arena encourages you to battle harder the longer the match lasts.

It’s even more tense if you’re currently top of the leaderboard. Your avatar completely changes, and you’re lit up like a Christmas tree, meaning almost all players will come after you to try and bring you down and steal your hard-earned mushrooms.

We say almost, because this is primarily a team game. Whenever you hit play, you’ll either randomly join two other players to form a team, or you can bring your friends along for the ride. It feels a bit like an unnecessary feature, but it does help differentiate it from the pack.

But therein lies BarBarQ‘s biggest problem – it’s just crammed full of unnecessary features. Take the perk system, for example. While we appreciate being able to unlock and bring a single perk into the game with you, it does lead to imbalance. Not all perks are born equally.

Speaking of imbalance, there are also a bunch of pets that you can acquire by spending real cash or hours of time battling in the arena for chests.

While other multiplayer battlers settle for purely cosmetic upgrades, BarBarQ definitely has pay to win features, and that’s likely to put off a bunch of players.

It doesn’t help that there are so many different ways to spend your hard-earned real life money either. There are too many buttons on the main menu, and the vast majority of them are encouraging you to spend money.

There’s a lucky dip, a store, multiple recharge buttons, and loads of other faff. It’s a far cry away from PUBG Mobile or Clash Royale that simply has an option to play and an option to buy stuff.

But the reality is that you can ignore all of that and just play for fun and for free. And boy, will you have a lot of fun here. There’s nothing else quite like BarBarQ, which feels like an odd thing to say about a game that wears its many inspirations on its sleeves. Ultimately, it’s more than the sum of its parts and well worth checking out if you like any of its inspirations.

Ultimately, BarBarQ blends PUBG, Agar.io, and Brawl Stars and the result is far tastier than you’d imagine. The action is packed, the perk system deep, and the visual style keeps things nice and simple but remains pretty. It’s just a shame that the free to play faff, pay to win, and a cluttered UI slightly tar an incredibly fun and unique experience.

 

 

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Shadowgun Legends review – The stuff of legend?

Console-quality shooters on mobile were a thing before Shadowgun Legends came along, doing its best impression of Destiny, but with Madfinger Games’ latest blast-em-up now fully locked and loaded on iOS and Android devices, the quality we’re talking about is no longer the PS2.

Standing on the shoulders of games like NOVA and Dead Trigger 2, Shadowgun Legends takes the touchscreen FPS to new heights. It’s derivative in some respects, sure, but Madfinger deserves plaudits for taking a well-used blueprint and refining it to near perfection.

Everything about Shadowgun Legends screams ‘high-end shooter’ at a brash, confident pitch. If you’ve ever played a mobile FPS before, this is the kind of game you can pick up and play with minimal tuition. A swipe of the left thumb lets you look around, the right is dedicated to movement and firing is automatic if you stick with the default settings.

Madfinger Games

Madfinger shot for accessibility and simplicity and hit the bullseye in both respects. Besides moving and shooting, there are few commands to get your head around. A double-tap of the screen lets you aim, and further down the line, virtual buttons for additional abilities, such as grenade tossing, will appear at the foot of the display.

Keeping things streamlined was a shrewd move on the developer’s part, as this is what makes the game such a good fit for mobile. Including virtual buttons for commands like crouch and jump might have made Shadowgun Legends more sophisticated, but it would also have compromised the free-flowing, fast-paced action.

Graphically, it’s an absolute powerhouse that has the Unreal Engine 4 firing on all cylinders. The game takes place against a colourful sci-fi backdrop that encompasses everything from densely-populated planets to claustrophobic spaceship interiors straight out of the Alien franchise.

Madfinger has a reputation for churning out gorgeous-looking shooters that have about as much upstairs as one of the zombies from Dead Trigger 2, but this isn’t another addition to the mindless horde. The Czech-based studio has gone to great lengths to ensure there’s more to Shadowgun Legends than shooting anything that moves. Missions are spattered with light RPG elements and are objective-based, involving hacking puzzles, rescue escapades and fetch quests.

Of course, none of this is rocket science – even the missions which literally involve rockets – but it does at least create the illusion of depth and elevates the game above the likes of Unkilled. That said, there’s true variety to be found as well: the sheer volume of content and rewards on offer will keep you playing Shadowgun Legends for untold hours.

Madfinger Games

From the game’s main hub, there are always solo missions to embark on, as well as co-op quests and virtually every form of multiplayer versus contest you can think of. Whether teaming up with other players or gunning them down in cold blood, Shadowgun Legends’ infectious accessibility carries over to the online modes, making it competitive with recent throne contenders such as Fortnite and PUBG.

Both solo missions and multiplayer escapades come with bucketloads of XP, which helps you scale the game’s huge skills tree, and successfully completing them always yields new weapons and armour. These drip-fed rewards, and the fact they can be obtained by playing in short bursts, are a big part of what makes Shadowgun Legends so compelling.

Despite its successes, the game isn’t perfect. To say the storyline takes a backseat is an understatement: it’s been bound, gagged and shoved beneath the backseat to pave the way for all-guns-blazing carnage, and the free-to-play business model throws up the occasional obstacle for players with no desire to part with any real-world cash.

This is most apparent when the restrictive inventory cap comes into play. Players are unable to tick off a completed mission until they’ve accepted their rewards, and this means going through the rigmarole of clearing out inventory space every time, unless you’ve paid for additional slots.

These minor gripes aside, Shadowgun Legends is a strong contender for best mobile shooter on the market. The game would have shone on previous-generation home consoles from a visual standpoint and everything about it feels tailored for tablets and smartphones.

Until there comes a time when the likes of Doom, Call of Duty and Battlefield can run on mobile with zero concessions, Shadowgun Legends is Google Play and the App Store’s definitive FPS.

The post Shadowgun Legends review – The stuff of legend? appeared first on Gamezebo.

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