Tag Archives: Reviews
People with kids of the correct age already know when new Toca Life games come out. I say this with full confidence as the father of two of them. That means Toca Life: Pets might be an automatic purchase for you even without knowing much about it, but it’s probably still reassuring to hear someone else say that it’s worth it, and this one definitely is.
As you might gather from the title, Toca Life: Pets is focused on animals of all kinds. You’ll find the usual suspects like dogs, cats, fish and hamsters, but tons of others you probably wouldn’t keep as pets in real life. Or maybe you have a tank big enough for a manatee, in which case you should invite me over sometime to check it out.
There’s no structure and no restrictions to how kids explore the game’s world, which consists of five different locations. Some are indoors, some outdoors, others a mixture of both. The common threads between them are that both animals and humans are present, to be customized to the player’s content. Signs of the usual Toca Life interactivity are everywhere; you can put animals in the mud to get them dirty, give them a quick dunk in water to clean them, pick up after them when they poop, find them places to sleep and much more.
In fact, the vast number of secrets and surprises feels like the most in the series to date. It invites kids to keep poking and prodding around to see if they can uncover more, and that’s really the big hook of Toca games in general.
Placing animals in the hand of a human can transport it between locations, and there’s a big and obvious reset button on the main map screen if you need to simply restore things to their original order. The idea, according to the devs, is that kids will want to create their own stories with the characters and pets, and you’ll be happy to know that there’s an easy to use record feature (that also asks for permission to use your device’s microphone to record audio) that allows players to easily record and save up to two-minute clips.
If anything, there might simply be too much freedom in Toca Life: Pets for some younger mobile gamers. It’s more of a creativity tool for free play than a game in the traditional sense, and while that’s fantastic for those who would like to let their imaginations run free, it’s also likely not for everyone. But rest assured, the delightful presentation and inviting amount of content will make it likely that many kids will want to find out.
Run Sausage Run! is the breakaway hit of the weekend, quickly making it to the coveted number one position on the Top Free list of the App Store. Called a “Kitchen Nightmare Escape,” the game is a side-scrolling endless runner where you must guide a sausage through a series of obstacles. Avoid slicing knives, smashing tenderizers, searing grills, and whirling blades to gather coins, powerups and points. If you are too fast or too slow, too high or too low, your little sausage will meet its very bloody demise.
As a high-score chaser, the game is indeed simple, but it excels here by carefully crafting the critical gameplay components. Movement, graphics, and soundtrack all contribute to an addictive treat of a game that is surprisingly delightful. The default forward action is a slow walk, which you can speed up and then return to as you pass through obstacles, giving you a real feeling of control over your progress. This is also very effective in producing a meaningful sense of inertia as you guide the runner forward. Each little sausage or bacon bends backwards as it runs, contributing to a feeling of weight and forward movement.
The art style has a retro vibe to it and I coudn’t help but think of those marching concession-stand hot dogs inviting you to “go to the lobby” at the beginning of old movies. Power-ups are fun and charmingly idiosyncratic as you learn how to move optimally while they are active. Consistent progression will unlock funny new outfits which you can purchase using coins you earn through passing obstacles and collecting throughout the level. Unfortunately, the different outfits don’t seem to be anything more than superficial; I really wanted my Ninja sausage to be faster and more agile, but it seemed to have the same skills as the ordinary sausage.
I often play games without the sound on, unless it’s imperative for the experience, but Run Sausage Run! deserves a nod for the fantastic soundtrack. I challenge any player not to smile while hearing the music… that is, until the very loud ads interrupt your gameplay. But on its own, the music is a fantastic addition to the game.
One-thumb game play, portrait orientation, quick sessions, and the ability to return to a paused game will make this a fun option for commuters. Fans of of the cult hit Dumb Ways to Die will likely enjoy the goofy goriness. The game is free to play, but ads become more aggressive over time, even launching automatically in the middle of a session. If you’re enjoying the game, there is gratefully an IAP to remove ads which dramatically improves the experience (and stops interrupting that great music). Overall, Run Sausage Run! is worth the free download just to experience that inevitable slice. It’s a fun, silly snack of a game that will test your timing skills and tolerance for blood splatter.
The original Framed showed how to take an idea and create a compelling game around it. It felt unlike anything you’d played before, with its mixture of action and comic-panel swapping. Gorogoa is definitely hewn from the same rock, but it takes things in an intriguingly different direction.
The images you’re playing around with here don’t just need to be put in the right place, you need to zoom in, dissect them, then stitch them back together in the right way to push the narrative on. And quite frankly it’s a little bit wonderful.
This is a game that’s fit to bursting with ideas, and it’s all wrapped up with a narrative that makes solving the puzzles feel like something you have to do. Gorogoa is the sort of game you’re going to sit down and play until the end, and that’s pretty darn special.
To give you an idea of the sort of thing you’re going to be doing in the game, it’s probably best to share an example. In one scene you connect two shelves from different images together. You need to get something from one of the shelves onto the other one.
Once you’ve worked that out, you need to change the weights of the items that are balancing the shelf. You’ll zoom in and out a few times, switch frames around, and eventually find that you can add a pile of stones to one end of the shelf.
And the game expands even further from there. You’re not just swapping pictures around so the hero can walk from one of them to the next in safety, you’re taking images of stars from books and using them to light lanterns. You’re dropping stones from a box in one world, letting them fall through two different worlds, and then positioning a bell jar with a butterfly in it underneath them.
Gorogoa is full of wonderful eureka moments. This is a game that doesn’t hold your hand, but at the sam time gives you everything you need to work things out for yourself. That’s wonderfully refreshing, and even when things get more difficult, there’s a solid, if slightly twisted, logic underpinning the whole thing.
And on top of that the game looks incredible. All watercolours and beautiful vistas. From the mandala on a moths wing to the stitching on a pillow, everything here means something. And, perhaps more importantly, everything here is trying to tell you something.
This is one of those rare times when a game simply wouldn’t work on any platform other than mobile. Gorogoa is a tactile experience, one that demands to be poked and explored. And you’re going to have a brilliant time doing just that.
Have you ever wondered what it must be like to be the final boss of a raid in an MMO? Probably not, but that’s the question that Like a Boss! poses. Rather than the hero, here you’re playing the villain of the piece, and you need to mash those insignificant adventurers in order to bag loot and new gear.
It’s a reasonably interesting idea, although maybe not the most original. And when it comes down to it, mechanically it doesn’t really make much difference that you’re playing the big bad. You’re still whomping things, casting spells, and tooling up with the rewards you receive.
It’s not a bad thing though. There’s a solid heart to proceedings here, and a warm sense of humour running through everything that the game throws at you. Sure it’s grindy, sure you’ve seen almost everything it has to offer before, but Like a Boss! is still an awful lot of fun.
After a bit of preamble that sees you taking a beating, you get to choose your race and your class. You can be a sword swinging warrior, an arrow firing ranger, or a staff wielding wizard. The game plays much the same whatever choice you make, although there are finer details you’ll need to get to grips with for each of the different styles.
Once you’ve done that you’re tossed into the fray. You’ve got a bunch of minions on your side, and you tap to move through small dungeons. Poke an enemy and you’ll attack it. There are special moves along the bottom of the screen which dole out extra damage. These are on cooldown timers though, so you need to use them sparingly.
You’ll face stronger heroes the deeper you get into the game. These elites represent the best players in the MMO, and they spout out catchphrases accordingly. There’s not much strategy here though, although taking out the healers first is always a good idea.
While the levels look different, there’s rarely that much that changes between them. Smash up the heroes, collect some loot, toughen up your boss then go out and do the same thing again. You can send your minions on raids to get you more loot, and there are different optional objectives to complete as well.
Everything plays out like you’re standard casual RPG. There are wait-timers, bag limits, and a whole vat of currencies. But there’s nothing too onerous here, and the game is pretty generous when it comes to chucking goodies at you, especially for the first few hours.
You can utilise the help of other people’s bosses as well. It’s a nice way to connect, and it means you can pick an ally that complements the role you’ve chosen. There are guilds to join too, and plenty of challenges and achievements to complete.
There’s nothing wrong with Like a Boss! It sets out its stead, and then follows through nicely. It doesn’t shake up things beyond the cosmetic, but it manages to craft an interesting and engaging series of scraps all the same.
If you’re looking for something in the Dungeon Keeper mode, you’re going to be disappointed. This is about as hands-on as casual RPGs get, and there’s none of the tactics or brain smarts that the classic sim demanded of you.
But if you don’t mind just stomping through levels as a giant monster, building new weapons and special hats, and watching your numbers go up, then you’re going to enjoy pretty much everything that the game has to offer. Mainly because, that’s pretty much everything the game has to offer.
Fantasy RPGs come in all shapes and sizes, so the biggest question any new one has to answer is whether or not it brings something new to the party of at least rearranges the furniture in a cool way. Portal Knights leans more heavily toward the latter, but it’s done in such enjoyable fashion that it kind of feels like the former.
The world of Portal Knights has a backstory, even if it isn’t necessarily something that stays with you while you play. What once was united is now fractured, and the denizens are waiting for the titular Portal Knights to bring light back to all who await its return. That’s your cue to create a Warrior (melee weapons and such), Ranger (bows and slings) or Mage (spells, naturally) and start getting your hands dirty.
Every time you create a new in-game universe, you end up with a procedurally generated system of dozens of islands, each with their own landscape, enemies, resources and NPCs. You can start a new universe for each new character or decide to tackle one you’ve already made, but the progression remains the same. An unfinished portal or portals exists on each island, and finding the materials to complete them is the only way to advance to the next one — though you can fast travel back to any previously discovered island, which is a helpful touch you’ll definitely appreciate.
Regardless of class, your controls utilize a virtual stick for movement and buttons for attacks, and you simply hold and drag the screen to look or aim. An auto-lock for combat makes fighting much easier, and even on touchscreens, the control scheme manages to keep up with the action in either the default third-person or first-person views. Local co-op allows for up to four players to quest together too, something you probably want to explore during boss battles.
And if the graphics remind you of a slightly higher polycount Minecraft, much of what you do in-between battles and exploring will too. Portal Knights offers a ton of crafting options for everything from weapons to decorative items for the house you’re surely going to build at some point. The mobile version even has Vacant Islands you can purchase once you’ve gathered enough gold, perfect for making a home away from the threat of constantly respawning monsters.
It’s the kind of game you can easily find yourself getting lost in for hours at a time even when you aren’t making progress toward the end of the story. That’s good value, especially when you consider that it’s only a few bucks for iOS or Android. We may get too sidetracked along the way to ever jump through every portal, but we’re definitely anticipating having a lot of fun regardless.