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Bob's Burgers pinball photo
Bob's Burgers pinball

Bob's Burgers coming to Zen Studios pinball games

I don't see Tina, the best character
Oct 06
// Darren Nakamura
Joining Family Guy in Zen's "Balls of Glory" Pinball Pack is the vastly superior Bob's Burgers. The table is set up on the street outside the titular restaurant, with It's Your Funeral Home & Crematorium next door and Jim...
Ghost Trick photo
Ghost Trick

Ghost Trick's been pulled from iOS completely, even for those who bought it

How do we make 'to P.T.' a verb?
Oct 06
// Joe Parlock
Uh-oh, this is starting to become a trend. First the iOS port of BioShock was removed from the iOS app store and users’ purchase histories, meaning they couldn’t even download the game if they’d paid for it....
Noon VR photo
Noon VR

Noon VR is a neat home experience, but the tech is very limited

Far from true VR
Oct 02
// Chris Carter
As most of you know, I'm not completely sold on VR yet. I mean, I actually really like the tech, it's very cool, but I'm literally not sold on it. I've had a full-time job basically since I was 15, so I could genera...
Minecraft: Story Mode photo
Minecraft: Story Mode

Meet the cast of Minecraft: Story Mode with this trailer

'I'm a PC'
Oct 01
// Darren Nakamura
Minecraft: Story Mode officially kicks off on October 13 with its first episode The Order of the Stone. Though we previewed it recently at PAX Prime, there haven't been any trailers for it since the teaser back in July. With ...

RPG Maker MV photo
RPG Maker MV

The next generation of RPG Maker arrives this month

You can make the next Corpse Party!
Oct 01
// CJ Andriessen
RPG Maker, that RPG creation tool you say you're going to use to make the greatest role playing game ever but then don't, will see its next iteration launch on October 23 with RPG Maker MV. At $80 you can create the next gre...

Review: PewDiePie: Legend of the Brofist

Sep 29 // Jed Whitaker
PewDiePie: Legend of the Brofist (Android, iOS [reviewed on an iPhone 6S Plus])Developer: Outerminds Inc.Publisher: Outerminds Inc.Released: September 24, 2015MSRP: $4.99 PewDiePie: Legend of the Brofist caught me off guard with its production values and gameplay. At first, I was expecting a half-assed cash-in on PewDiePie and the other co-starring YouTubers' popularity, but instead I found a fully voice-acted platformer reminiscent of such classics as DuckTales and the more recent Shovel Knight. Yeah, I can't believe I just typed those words either. Using the left side of the screen as a virtual joystick that spawns wherever your finger first touches and the right side of the screen as a jump button, you'll help PewDiePie and friends hunt down the evil barrel king that stole all his fans, aka bros. Going from left to right while jumping on enemies to kill them isn't revolutionary, but the ease and precision of the controls are. I've played many touch screen games and this is the first that felt like it nailed translating traditional controls; deaths felt like my own fault and jumping between platforms surrounded by certain death was smooth as butter. Each level adds something new, such as jumping from moving cars and rhinos, to a side-scrolling space shooter, to levels where you must avoid enemies for a set amount of time in a small area until help arrives. Help is provided by other popular YouTubers like Markplier and Jacksepticeye, whom voice themselves.  [embed]312909:60547:0[/embed] These other YouTubers can then be unlocked, and each have their own unlockable abilities as well that can be equipped two at a time -- one attack and one defense. Abilities have a cooldown timer that is replenished by killing enemies or digging through piles of debris found throughout stages. This debris also grants coins and/or health power-ups and sometimes a collectible patch, of which there are many. Attack abilities are mostly useless; I found jumping on enemies' heads to be easier than waiting on them to walk through a pug's fart cloud. Defensive abilities fair a bit better. One of them grants you three hearts of health every so often, which can be useful for boss fights and the more difficult levels. All abilities and characters are unlocked in a store using in-game currency that's earned by killing enemies, found throughout the level, and awarded at the end of levels based on performance and difficulty. Speaking of difficulty, there are four options to choose from, the default being easy mode. I tried a few levels on hard, the second lowest difficulty, and found them to live up to that label, adding more enemies that hit a bit harder. For the purpose of this review, I played most levels on the default easy difficulty, which proved challenging at times.  My only qualms with the game in general are that it seemed like not enough coins could be earned to unlock everything by the end (likely to entice players to go through the harder difficulties), that I had to watch cute pugs die, and that some characters used stereotypical gender signifiers. As you go through the levels as PewDiePie, you're joined by his two adorable pugs who will sacrifice their pugly lives instead of letting their owner take the last hit. Upon this sacrifice, they gib into little puppy chunks, and give a heartbreaking yelp. While this drove me to be more careful, it was disturbing. As for the gender signifiers, there are some barrels that are pink and give birth to smaller barrels upon death, and a rhino wearing lipstick -- a minor complaint but nothing I'll lose sleep over. While I didn't get any of the references or inside jokes like why PewDiePie is being attacked by barrels, or the copious amount of ducks and exploding cows, I could appreciate that it was something zany his fans will surely love. For those wanting a solid mobile platformer, consider dropping the five bucks on PewDiePie: Legend of the Brofist, as it has a kickass chiptune soundtrack, colorful levels, and tight touchscreen platforming. If you're a PewDiePie fan, then making the purchase is a no-brainer. The game took me a just over a couple of hours to complete, though completionists will be able to get a lot more mileage out of it. My time and money were well spent, and it almost made me want to watch a PewDiePie video. Almost. [This review is based on a retail build of the game purchased by the reviewer.]
Review: PewDiePie: LotB photo
*Yelling and farting sounds here*
Anyone who frequents YouTube knows who PewDiePie is, but if you don't, he is an over-the-top let's player that parents don't get and kids love, as well as the most-subscribed person on YouTube. And now he has his own game.&nb...

Monster Hunter iOS photo
Monster Hunter iOS

Capcom likely won't fix Monster Hunter Freedom Unite for iOS 9

Beat it before you update
Sep 28
// Chris Carter
Monster Hunter Freedom Unite is a pretty great game on iOS. It's a shame then, to learn that Capcom probably isn't going to update the game to support the recently released iOS 9. According to the game's official iTunes ...
Land Sliders photo
Land Sliders

Land Sliders is a pretty decent stopgap game between Crossy Road sessions

Casual fun
Sep 28
// Chris Carter
I could probably play stressful games all day long without quitting. Sure, it may get frustrating from time to time, but playing these types of experiences is in my blood. But that doesn't mean that I can't enjoy everything, ...
BioShock photo

BioShock iOS is coming back to the App Store after all, says 2K

Silence finally broken
Sep 25
// Chris Carter
As you may have heard, BioShock's iOS port was removed from the App Store entirely, to the point where you couldn't even re-download it if you owned it. Multiple outlets have reached out to 2K for comment over the past week o...
BiOShock photo

BioShock mysteriously zapped from Apple's App Store

Full refunds are available
Sep 24
// Brett Makedonski
It's said that during the rapture, all who are good simply vanish from earth to continue their existence in the afterlife. Fitting given its eponymous setting that BioShock for iOS devices just kind of disappeared recent...
Pokemon Shuffle Mobile photo
Pokemon Shuffle Mobile

Of course Pokemon Shuffle Mobile's leaderboards are hacked

Because why wouldn't they be?
Sep 21
// Darren Nakamura
There are already a lot of reasons why Pokémon Shuffle Mobile is inferior to the previously released 3DS version, like the increase in item prices, the removal of Jewel rewards for beating Mega evolutions, and the...
Final Fantasy Type-0 photo
Final Fantasy Type-0

Final Fantasy Agito reborn as Type-0 Online

In development for PC and mobile
Sep 19
// Kyle MacGregor
After recently announcing plans to abandon Final Fantasy Agito, Square Enix has unveiled its successor, Final Fantasy Type-0 Online, which the publisher is branding as an "evolution." In development at Chinese MMO house ...
Tokyo Game Show hands-on photo
It makes sense to me
Candy Crush is like, bad, right? I mean, I'll still suggest to my mother that she should read a book instead of wasting time on that crap (talk about some role reversal), but it's difficult to dislike the game with any inten...

More Quick Tips: Pokemon Shuffle Mobile

Sep 17 // Darren Nakamura
First things first: the time-sensitive stuff If you read nothing else of this guide, this is what you should take away. Enter the code 65607110 under Settings > Code for Lucarionite. This code expires on September 30, 2015. Lucarionite will let you Mega evolve Lucario, which is a huge help throughout the game. I'll explain why in detail later. Your first long-term goal should be to capture Groudon. Groudon is currently part of a special event set to expire on September 25, 2015. Opportunities for both of these are likely to show up in the future, but obtaining them now will be a great help for getting through the early, mid, and late game. Matches The game explains the basics of making matches, but leaves a lot of nuance for the player to discover. Moving a Pokémon on the board almost always involves swapping two Pokémon. On a board with few disruptions, you can frequently make matches on both ends of the swap. Taking the above into account, double-ended matches do not occur simultaneously. The Pokémon being dragged into place matches first, while the one swapped back by default matches second. This can come into play if you want to control how surrounding tiles fall. In general, by swapping from the bottom up, you can increase your chance of getting lucky as the dust settles. When matching a single Pokémon both horizontally and vertically, precedence is given to the larger match (for example, a match of four will clear before a match of three). When the horizontal and vertical matches are equal in size, the horizontal match will take precedence. This can be very important when matching certain Mega evolutions. Abilities Short descriptions of abilities are given, but some could use more explicit explanation. With a few exceptions, abilities are usually activated for only the first Pokémon matched in a single combo. Exceptions include powering up a Mega evolution and activating a Mega ability. These will occur no matter how far down a combo the match occurs. Power of 4 (Bulbasaur, Charmander, Squirtle, Kangaskhan, and more) will activate every time a match of four is made for the first match of a combo with the corresponding Pokémon. Most other abilities activate some fraction of the time, with bigger matches (fours and fives) increasing the chance the ability will activate. Before playing a round, take the time to familiarize yourself with your Pokémon's abilities. When making a double-ended match, it's better to take a chance on a random ability like Opportunist than waste a first-match-in-the-combo on Block Smash when there are no blocks around. Types The Pokémon Shuffle type chart follows the X/Y type chart. Here are some important notes. Unlike classic Pokémon, Shuffle has players building teams of four specifically to fight a single type at any given time. Instead of taking a team that covers a wide set of types, you want a whole team of Super Effective (double damage) Pokémon for the task at hand. Fighting-type is the only type Super Effective versus Normal-type. This is partially why obtaining Lucarionite for Mega Lucario is so helpful. Thus far, Lucario is the only Fighting-type that can Mega evolve. Ground-type is the only type Super Effective versus Electric-type. This is partially why capturing Groudon early is so helpful. With Groudon, you can build an all-Ground team after Stage 101. Without Groudon, you can't have an all-Ground team until Stage 136. All other types have at least two types that are Super Effective against it, so it is much easier to build an appropriate team. Some levels feature weak Pokémon as a fixture and are easier to complete if those Pokémon are brought along as part of the team. Togekiss is easier to beat with Togetic along. Milotic is basically impossible without bringing Feebas to the party. Don't forget this is an option; several stages use the trick. Mega evolutions Mega evolutions are a big part of Pokémon Shuffle, but strategy is key. Several of the early Mega evolving Pokémon (Audino, Kangaskhan, Lopunny) are Normal-type. They are not Super Effective versus anything. Due to its higher base attack power, Mega Lucario is preferable to the Normal-type Megas unless fighting Poison-, Flying-, Psychic-, Bug-, or Fairy-types. If you hit the Optimize button repeatedly when building a team, it will cycle through different Mega evolving Pokémon. It is up to you to determine which one is actually most appropriate for a given level. In shorter stages (10 moves or less), it is often advantageous to leave out a Mega evolving Pokémon entirely. Since it takes time to Mega evolve, it is generally better to bring a Super Effective regular Pokémon as opposed to a normal damage Mega. Sometimes it can even be better to switch a Super Effective Mega out for a different Super Effective Pokémon with a greater attack power. Mega abilities are not created equal. Mega Gengar is great for stringing together big combos, but terrible for taking out unbreakable blocks. Mega Aerodactyl is great for taking out blocks, but useless in stages without those disruptions. Don't just take what Optimize gives you. Grinding In general, you won't want to grind, but here are some tips for when you should. Usually, the path to greater power is to capture stronger Pokémon. A single Pokémon's power can increase up to 20 points by leveling up to MAX, but base attack power can range from 30 to 90. Capture Pokémon with a base attack power of 60 or above instead of grinding your 40s and 50s. You can reasonably make it up to Mega Glalie (Stage 120) without grinding or using items. If you haven't already, this is a good time to switch to Expert stages to catch some of the upper tier Pokémon. Moltres, Blaziken, and Entei would specifically help against Mega Glalie. Getting S ranks on Main stages unlocks Expert stages. I can be worthwhile to go back to previously completed stages in order to bump the ranking. Experience is awarded in proportion to the number of moves a level contains. Buneary (Stage 21) is the best stage for grinding experience until Ampharos (Stage 130). Snorlax (Stage 183) technically awards the most experience of any main stage, but it is much more difficult to complete than Ampharos. An uncompleted stage still awards experience, but it's less than if the stage were completed. Meowth (Stage 37) can be played repeatedly to grind for coins. You only keep the coins if you beat him, so you have to be able to balance matching coins and attacking, but not attacking too quickly. Spending You can still play Pokémon Shuffle Mobile without spending a dime, but you'll have to be smart about it. Check in every day for 500 coins. Make sure to play the Special stages during the weekends for Meowth's Coin Mania. When making coin matches, a match of three is worth 100, a match of four is worth 300, and a match of five is worth 500. It is more profitable to get one match of four than two matches of three. Patience is the greatest asset in Pokémon Shuffle. You will be tempted to use a Great Ball often, but it is almost always better to save those coins. Even something as low as a 10% capture rate means (on average) ten tries to get it, or five hours of waiting. A single Great Ball on Mobile costs 3500 coins, or seven days of checking in. One thing I keep in mind when going for captures with low percentages is a comparison to a standard six-sided die. If you have a 17% catch power, that's like rolling a 6 on the die. It's not exactly likely, but if you roll the thing enough times you're bound to hit it eventually. The best time to use a Great Ball is when it triggers Super Catch Power on a particularly difficult battle. If you can't consistently beat a stage and you get Super Catch Power, it's probably worth it. Save your coins for the competitive events. These are often the only ways to get certain Mega Stones, and they are only awarded to a fraction of participants. Attack Power+ is an easy way to make sure you're in that group. When you do spend your coins, spend them wisely. Some stages are only difficult because of disruptions. Use a Disruption Delay on these. Some begin with a huge obstacle but get easy once that is cleared. Use a Mega Start (and an appropriate Mega Pokémon) on these. Determine the main problem of a level and use the tool best suited to tackle that problem. For the Main and Expert stages, you should not need items at all until you start going for S ranks. Be patient with your captures, be smart with your matches, and wait for that one really lucky run. So there you have it. Now that I have this all written out, it might not really be a set of "Quick Tips," but you should now be better prepared to take on the addiction that is Pokémon Shuffle. Good luck!
Pokemon Shuffle tips photo
Let's diglett deeper
Earlier this year, Pokémon Shuffle released on 3DS and Chris Carter handed out some tips for success in the free-to-play match-three puzzler, despite the fact that he didn't care much for it. He's so magnanimous. Pok&e...

Review: Leo's Fortune

Sep 16 // Darren Nakamura
Leo's Fortune (Android, iOS, Mac, PC, PlayStation 4 [reviewed], Windows Phone, Xbox One)Developer: 1337 & SenriPublisher: Tilting PointRelease: April 23, 2014 (mobile), September 8, 2015 (Mac, PC, PS4), September 11, 2015 (Xbox One)MSRP: $4.99 (mobile), $6.99 (non-mobile) Originally released on mobile last year, Leo's Fortune is now playable with a controller elsewhere. It's equal parts precision platformer, speed platformer, and puzzle platformer, alternating between the three to keep the experience fresh throughout. Leopold is a slippery guy, which aids in the speed sections. Certain areas have ramps and curves built in, giving Leo a playground to jump, inflate, and dive toward the exit quickly. Of the three styles of platforming present, this is the most exciting. The other two styles slow Leo down considerably. With his inflate ability, he can not only jump and launch off walls, but he can also slow his descent, giving himself greater control in spiky sections. Here, Leopold's slipperiness can get him into trouble; he will sometimes maintain momentum from a speed section straight into a trap. It can be difficult to make the small adjustments necessary for the precision segments, because pressing in one direction for more than a split second will send him careening in that direction. The puzzles are a welcome change of pace, though they never really tax the brain. For the most part, they are the same kinds of physics-based puzzles we've seen elsewhere. They're certainly not bad, but they're never mindblowing either. [embed]310626:60351:0[/embed] All of this is tied together by an after school special-esque story. Though the specifics of the big twist aren't exactly predictable, it's clear throughout that Leopold is barking up the wrong trees and stands to learn a life lesson. It's almost like one of Aesop's fables; it comes with the moral of appreciating people over possessions, which is a great message to teach children, but feels trite to those who have heard it before. In that way, the story mirrors the puzzle sections. It's totally serviceable, but I'm not particularly impressed by it. Where Leo's Fortune excels is in the presentation. Leopold's fuzz and a lot of the environmental effects are fantastically animated. Leo slides as he moves, meaning he doesn't have any walking or rolling animation, but despite that he exudes personality, particularly through facial expressions. I love the look he gives when he inflates. So what we have in all is a beautiful platformer with ups and downs (literally and figuratively), a mundane narrative with a good message, and some real difficulty toward the end. The whole game probably only takes about an hour or two to finish (with full game speedruns clocking in at about 45 minutes. It's not a must-buy, not even for platformer fans, but it's a cute little game that most people can find some fun with. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Leo's Fortune review photo
Favors the bold
Coins. Plenty of games have them scattered around to collect, but few explain why they're there in the first place. If they're so valuable, why did somebody just leave them there? Leo's Fortune gives a reason. The titular mus...

Electronic Arts photo
Electronic Arts

EA silently kills a bundle of nice mobile games

Many older titles pulled from app stores
Sep 12
// Kyle MacGregor
Earlier this month, Electronic Arts removed over a dozen of its older mobile titles from the iOS and Android app stores with essentially no notice. The blow came on September 1, when the publisher whispered via its support site that the following games would be disappearing that very same day:

Which Pokemon would you find in your neighborhood?

Sep 11 // Steven Hansen
Excelsior I've lived a couple different places in Excelsior, including my current digs. You'll find savvy Sneasels and Scythers scurrying through the fragrant wild fennel fenced off alongside the sloping freeway underpasses on your way up to the relative wilds of Glen Park. Murkrows dot power lines along Geneva and Mission. Ekans occasionally slither down from their dry McLaren plains into the European-named streets below. The Meowths, too, will come down and brave the streets to swipe coins, while a more timid crew stays completely up in the hills. Exeggutors wander Mission freely while Machokes are hard at work. Noe Valley Wandering Magnemites have been spotted in increasing numbers in this region. They are mostly nocturnal and drain the batteries of residents' Teslas. Eevee, of course, are prized in Noe Valley, including its fashionable evolutions brought about by precious-gem-owning old money. Except Jolteon. Fuck Jolteon. Wandering Trubbish and Garbodor, abandoned in Dolores Park by transplants and tech assholes, have been spotted wandering into outlying regions such as Noe Valley, but only the latter employs underpaid Quagsire to wash the trash Pokemon downhill into the Mission. Fort Funston San Francisco's beaches are typically cold and free of the Southern California, bathing suit clad beaches people often associate with the state. The lesser known Fort Funston, south of the creatively named Ocean Beach, is a haven for owners of dog Pokémon like Growlithe and Arcanine, which are allowed to run freely amid the wild Sandshrews and Sandiles burrowed in the beach. The dogs are free to chase Wingull up and down, sniff the occasional washed up, dead Krabby, and sometimes roll around in Sealeo corpses, covering themselves in disgusting, rotting viscera. Beware if you bring your smaller pup Pokémon as assholes nearby (the country club?) occasionally rise their Rapidashes down onto the beach, threatening the safety of all dogs in this typical haven. Plus they shit everywhere and do those prissy fucks get off their high horse to pick it up, like the responsible dog owners? Of course not.
Pokemon Go Proust photo
An on-going Pokemon map of San Francisco
Forget the open-world Pokémon console RPG with wild pocket monsters represented on-screen instead of in random encounters. Nintendo just went and leap frogged all of us by partnering with a mobile company to bring Pok&...

Magic: The Gathering - Puzzle Quest found inspiration in Tinder

Sep 10 // Zack Furniss
I've always been curious about Magic, so I clenched my toes and resolved to understand everything the developer was going to tell me. Like other Puzzle Quest games, this is a match-3 game where you have to rearrange chromatic gems. You play as a Planeswalker of your choice, which the internet tells me is "among the most powerful beings in the Mulitiverse" and is also a cipher for the player. Each Planeswalker specializes in a certain type of mana, which correlates with a certain colored gem. By carefully choosing gems that are better for your P'Walker, you can cast spells, use items, and attack your opponents. As I aimlessly matched Swamp mana gems, developer man told me that while decks begin pre-assembled and tailored to each Planeswalker you can choose from, you can also earn new cards through the game or through buying booster packs. If you decide to buy a booster pack, you'll be shown more cards than you'll actually get and can choose from that pool. D3 Go! told me that they found inspiration by way of popular dating (fucking) app Tinder, in that if you like a card, you can swipe right to have sex with it acquire it, and if you don't you can swipe left to dismiss it. It's almost the same amount of fun, except here you're judging and subsequently throwing a card (instead of a person) in the bin. While there will be a set number of Planeswalkers at launch, more cards and characters will be available as time goes on. D3 Go! wants special events to tie into the physical card-based game when they can, and might even make certain cards easier to attain at these times. They haven't nailed down the pricing and timing of these events yet, but plan to make sure this month's variant of Puzzle Quest has a long span of life. Though my awkward time with Magic: The Gathering - Puzzle Quest wasn't enough to teach me all of the intricacies of the upcoming mobile game, I left curious. I might try it out this fall when it releases for free on iOS and Android devices, if only as an opportunity to symbolically apologize to D3 (kudos for being patient and fun!) for making their job harder for fifteen skin-crawling minutes. Let's see who'll be the first person to accuse me of not knowing anything about Magic in the comments. You have my permission to laugh at them. Or, you can be nice and point to the first paragraph. Your call.
Magic: The Gathering photo
Or, an adventure in ignorance
I'm telling you right now, if you clicked on this article for an expert opinion on all things Magic: The Gathering, you're in the wrong place. I know fuck-all about Magic! My only experience with Puzzle Quest is the five...

Pokemon Go photo
AR game from San Francisco startup
Today at a press event in Tokyo, The Pokémon Company announced Pokémon Go, an upcoming smartphone game being made by Ingress developer Niantic, a startup based out of San Francisco that was found...

Pokemon Shuffle Mobile photo
Pokemon Shuffle Mobile

Pokemon Shuffle Mobile squeezes more out of players

A mathematical analysis
Sep 04
// Darren Nakamura
When I started playing Pokémon Shuffle Mobile earlier this week, I noticed a weird discrepancy between it and the 3DS version. When the option to use a Great Ball came up, it was asking for 3500 coins, up 40% from 2500...
Pokemon Shuffle Mobile photo
Pokemon Shuffle Mobile

Here's how Pokemon Shuffle Mobile stacks up to the 3DS version

Pros and cons
Sep 04
// Darren Nakamura
After about my 50th hour into Pokémon Shuffle for the 3DS, I regretted getting into it late. When it released, I did what most people do when they hear "free-to-play;" I tuned it out without giving it a second thought....
Sonic on Piggy Island photo
Sonic on Piggy Island

Sonic's next adventure takes him to Piggy Island

NOT some messed up erotic fan-fic
Sep 02
// Steven Hansen
Something has happened to Sonic. It's been happening for years. Sonic is a weird porn figure, the subject of countless adolescent Deviantart drawings and erotic fan-fics by kids still figuring themselves out. Also, us, when w...

Review: Lara Croft GO

Aug 27 // Zack Furniss
Lara Croft GO (iOS [reviewed on iPad Air], Android, Windows Phones)Developer: Square Enix MontréalPublisher: Square EnixRelease Date: August 27, 2015MSRP: $4.99 Lara Croft GO immediately establishes itself as a contemplative foray into a forgotten world. Meditative music gently ebbs and flows as Lara slowly walks up to a well-preserved ruin in one of the game's few brief cutscenes. The environments are vibrantly rendered in a simplistic yet gorgeous manner while gentle camerawork plays with the foreground, asserting a sense of depth. Lara's expedition takes you deeper into this ancient land, and before long a gargantuan serpent begins pursuing this new trespasser.  Similar to Hitman GO, you can only move along pre-carved lines on the ground and scalable walls, darting from spot to spot. Here, however, Ms. Croft is fluidly animated, doing somersaults and even her famous hand-stand ledge climb on occasion. It's initially jarring to see her do stilted little jumps between spots (there's no way to hold down a run button, as that would quickly end in death), but I stopped noticing it just a few levels in. Enemies and obstacles can only move whenever you do, so movement needs to be precise and measured. Unlike early Tomb Raider games, you'll never die due to stepping a tad too far or misjudging a jump.  Puzzles start as simplistic fare involving levers and floor panels that can only be safely crossed one time, but add elements every few levels (of which there are 40) to stave off repetition. Snakes, lizards, and giant spiders will do their best to prevent you from reaching your desired MacGuffin and each provide their own set of challenges. You'll eventually find single-use tools to combat them, such as a javelin and a torch. Then there are boulders, sawblades, and other traps that will make you doubt every step you take. Since the checkpoints are very forgiving and most levels will only take you a few minutes to complete, dying isn't discouraging. Death, more than anything, is your most reliable tool when it comes to deciphering the machinations of the deathtraps hindering your progress. You'll step on plenty of floor panels only to launch arrows into your soon-to-be lifeless body, but it's never a frustrating affair. While this is appreciated, the one and only quibble I have with Lara Croft GO is that it never quite feels like it fully ramps up to a satisfying difficulty. Despite a couple of "A-ha!" moments, the slow addition of complications and intensifying music build to a climax that doesn't deliver. It's always appreciated when a mobile game can be played in short sessions, but I wouldn't have balked at being stumped a few times. Perhaps it's my love towards past installments and the enjoyment of being utterly stonewalled by a puzzle, having to think about it even when I'm not playing. On the off-chance that you every get completely stuck, you can use microtransactions for hints (this feature was not online when I was playing for review). If you miss the older games in the series, you'll find cute references that aren't cloyingly nostalgic. The main menu is radial like it was in the olden days of yore, and that satisfyingly reverbed BRRINNGG sound effect denoting the discovery of a hidden treasure has returned. Find enough of those treasures and you'll even find costumes from the old games, like the wetsuit from Tomb Raider II. This affords Lara Croft GO some replayability (since you'll be able to finish it in around three hours depending on your skill level), but they aren't exactly well-hidden until the back half of the adventure. Though other games featuring Lara Croft have elicited a gamut of reactions such as horror and anxiety, I never expected to find spelunking so calming. The dreamlike soundscapes bring to mind a massage parlor and slowly slipping into sleep as someone caresses your tired feet. This is an easy game to fall asleep to, and I'm almost positive you'll have good dreams. I don't think Square Enix is claiming that one solely because of the lawsuits that will occur when players start rolling over and crushing their iPads. Lara Croft GO is clearly the product of a love for what the Tomb Raider series used to mean. Your pistols are more of a tool than a weapon, and you certainly won't be killing an island's worth of men. A lovely visual style and a zen-inspiring score provide backdrops to my favorite Croft adventure in some time. I'm now grateful for the delineation between the action-filled Tomb Raider and puzzle-focused Lara Croft games. Even though I enjoyed 2013's hectic reboot, sometimes you just want to stop and breathe it all in, tomb dust and all.
Lara Croft GO photo
Spa Raider
Last year, Square Enix Montréal surprised us by distilling the Hitman series into a minimalistic mobile game with a tabletop aesthetic. It was a risky move, but Hitman GO ended up a critical success that show...

Clicker Heroes photo
Clicker Heroes

We're doomed: Clicker Heroes hits iOS, Android

Be strong
Aug 25
// Jordan Devore
It's a good thing I swore off Clicker Heroes. It was bad enough playing the game on a desktop computer. Now, the perpetual time-waster is available for iOS and Android. There's no escape. For the uninitiated, this is an idle ...
Tabletopia Kickstarter photo
Tabletopia Kickstarter

Tabletopia wants to be the premier digital board game platform

A magical world made of tables
Aug 24
// Darren Nakamura
So we already have Tabletop Simulator, but a new challenger approaches. Tabletopia aims to bring board games into the digital space in a similar manner, and it has taken to Kickstarter for its last push in funding. It works b...
Monster Strike photo
Monster Strike

Japanese mobile game making $4 million a day

Monster Strike is just printing money
Aug 22
// Kyle MacGregor
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Review: Alphabear

Aug 22 // Darren Nakamura
Alphabear (Android [reviewed], iPad, iPhone)Developer: Spry Fox, LLCPublisher: Spry Fox, LLCReleased: July 8, 2015MSRP: Free (with microtransactions) The core mechanic in Alphabear is easy to pick up, but it bears an elegance upon close inspection. Letter tiles are placed on a variable-sized grid, and players are tasked with forming words with those letters. Using a letter clears it from the board, replaces it with a bear, and reveals new letters in any adjacent spaces. Bears can grow in size as long they have a full rectangle of cleared tiles to fill. Each tile has a countdown on it, decrementing by one for each turn taken. If any countdown reaches zero, that letter turns to stone, removing it from the pool of usable letters and taking up valuable real estate where bears could live. The end goal is to score the most points, which come from two main sources: words formed during a game and bear size at the end. Each letter's value decreases with its counter, so word values are calculated from both length and how close each individual letter is to expiring. For bear size, the aim is to create the biggest bear possible; one full-board bear is worth more than two half-board bears. [embed]307196:60082:0[/embed] All of these mechanics come together to make a game that isn't just about showing off vocabulary and anagram skills. For one, there is focus and direction. Tiles with low counters are shown in increasingly alarming colors, where those one turn away from fossilization pulsate with a deep red but those with four or more are a placid green. Instead of dumping upward of two dozen letters on the player and saying, "make some words," it makes using certain tiles more urgent, bringing them to the forefront. Maybe I could make a ten-letter word with these tiles over here, but I really need to use this J that's about to expire. It also causes the player to think ahead: not only does one want to use all of the tiles showing a one this turn, but he should also make sure he can deal with the tiles showing a two for next turn. Another important result of the base mechanics is the idea of spatial importance. The tiles all have a location, and clearing a tile in a certain area might be more beneficial than doing so in another. Some spaces are marked with a star or a skull, signifying the letter set to appear there will either have an unusually high countdown or an especially low countdown. Setting off a skull when there are several twos left in play is a bad move. The mechanics make the center of the board more important too, because a stone in the way there will prevent having a screen-filling bear at the end, but a stone along the edge or in a corner will only decrease its size by a small amount. The boards aren't all the same; the layout of a particular board affects how players will attack it. The last bit of significance that emerges from Alphabear's mechanics is a strong risk/reward scenario. Forming long words is worth more points right away, but it opens up more tiles at once. It brings more opportunities for even larger words but also more opportunities to miss using a tile in time. Play it safe, unlocking only a few new tiles per turn and banking on a large bear at the end, or go big on word scores at the risk of losing out on bears? There isn't a definite answer. In a word, Alphabear brings strategy to a genre that has severely lacked in it in the past. Considering the countdowns, board layout, and the available letters brings much more nuanced decision-making than the typical directive of "make the biggest word you can think of." Sometimes it's better to make a weaker word in the moment in order to pull ahead in the end. Every single turn presents this mental exercise. Outside of the main meat of the gameplay, there is also an almost Pokémon-esque collection mechanic. Completing a level above a par score nets the player a bear; completing it above a gold score gives a chance for a powerful rare bear. Each of these bears has its own costume and consistent with Spry Fox's modus operandi, they are all adorable. Look at Milky Bear (below)! It's a bear dressed up as a carton of milk. So cute. Each bear has its own powers to bring to the levels. Some only affect score, some have a noticeable impact on gameplay. By collecting the same bear multiple times, it levels up, increasing its multiplier. This makes high scores for future runs of the same board easier to attain. Not only does Alphabear inject strategy into a word puzzle, it also uses these light role-playing game elements to keep me playing. A particular level might be too hard now, but I can come back to it later with some beefed up bears and try it again. At the end of a level, the newly hatched bear will form a series of phrases using the words played during the game. You might have seen these on social media already. It's a silly little touch, but it adds another bit of meta to the experience. Not only do people go for high scores, they also go for words that would make for funny sentences to share with friends. The one big sticking point for many is Alphabear's free-to-play scheme. It uses an energy mechanic (honey), allowing for only a couple of games before honey is depleted. It builds up over time or can be accumulated by watching ads. Personally, I loved the gameplay so much I paid the five bucks for unlimited honey and haven't regretted it. Even then, the bears each have cooldown periods and the other currency (used to wake up sleeping bears and to play special levels) suffers from diminishing returns over the course of a day, so players who buy unlimited honey may still feel stifled. Spry Fox wants players to come back day after day; I'm fine with that, but I know there are many out there who aren't. Indeed, I'm still playing Alphabear on a nearly daily basis. I couldn't say how many hours I've put into it already (I'd estimate maybe 20?), but I'm not even halfway through all of the chapters. The injection of strategic concerns to a word puzzle is such great design. I would like that enough on its own, but the collection aspects, cute bears, and social media meta elevate it further. [This review is based on a free game with microtransactions purchased by the reviewer.]
Alphabear review photo
If you had told me three months ago there was still untapped potential in the genre of using letter tiles to form words, I probably wouldn't have believed you. If you would have told me a word puzzle game would end up being o...

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