About This Place

First started in late 2007, Kasey's Mobile Game Review (then just a regular feature of Kasey's Korner) started as a simul-post between here and IGN. Later I realized there's no reason to post it twice, when I can use the traffic on my own site. so, here we are, in 2010, and the mobile game industry has grown a bit. What do you think?

KMGR of "Civ 4: Defender of the Gates"

Sid Meier's Civilization IVImage via Wikipedia

Technically, the full title is "Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Defender of the Gates". However, it's way too long. So it's just Civ 4: DotG, or just DotG from now on.

Despite the name, this game is only peripherally related to the CIV 4 franchise... as it really is a tower defense game. However, the eras, the units, and the techs, and the upgrades all are from Civ 4. You control one of four civilizations (America, England, Russia, or China). You must build defenses to protect your empire against 50 waves of attack from the Huns... who managed to kept pace with your empire. Can you keep your civilization from being conquered and trampled?

If you haven't played tower defense, this is the premise... Enemy units come through a fixed path, and do NOT shoot. You must place defense towers/turrets along their path to destroy the invaders. The problem is invaders gets stronger each wave. Each wave, the Hun leader will insult you, promise to crush you under their feet, and how their weapons are unstoppable. They start at a mere 10HP, and move "slow". By the end, they will have THOUSANDS of HP, and move at fast or better. However, for every invader you destroy, you are rewarded with certain amount of gold, with which you can purchase more towers, upgrade the towers and/or other abilities. The objective is to last as many waves as you can, preferably all 50. The waves will vary somewhat, as some waves have special abilities. They can send a lot of weaker units, or one super unit (a boss). They may even send units that fly (so only certain towers can engage them) or even units immune to some of your towers. Remember, let as few through as possible.

This game adds a few wrinkles. Each era also gives you certain tech points, with which you can unlock technologies similar to Civ 4's tech tree, and those technologies will enable certain upgrades and more powerful towers, or affect the cost of towers, and other effects, such as pay you X amount of gold per civilian killed. Each civ starts with a unique advantage (America gets 1 extra tech point at start, China gets 10 extra citizens, etc. ). Each invader that gets thru will kill 1 of your citizens though a boss unit may kill more (and some may even steal your gold) You start with only 20 citzens, except China, which gets 30. When you run out of citizens, the game is over. You can also buy a new gate, make the gate stronger, and so on. A gate will delay the enemy incursion by X seconds, enough to let you upgrade/add/sell towers. With the right tech, the gate itself can be made stronger.

The gameplay is fast but fun, as each wave will only last a few minutes at most, and it autosaves, so you will lose at most ONE wave of progress. And there is not a lot of button pushing. It's a bit like an experiment... You set it up, and watch the results. The problem is it's possible to dig yourself into a hole that's impossible to dig yourself out of. The difficulty at the final era goes WAY UP, so unless you've save up the money from earlier eras and let it earn interest so you have plenty of $$$ (like 1000 gold or more) to upgrade turrets for the final era, you will not last more than 5 waves in the final era. And that's a big problem. Yes, gold you did NOT spend actually earns INTEREST, and economy upgrades will increase those interest rates.

There really isn't much sound in the game, nor does it really need much. There is a bit of music, but only in the menus, and that can be turned off. The music is not annoying, believe it or not. Graphics are quite good as all units are unique and animated nicely. Each tower also looks different, from upgrade to upgrade. The terrain looks good, with the path, ground, and occasional trees. The only nitpick is when the towers are packed together it may be difficult to pick one out to upgrade and whatnot. The menu system is clear and concise.

All in all, this game is quite charming, if they can just fix those final levels so they aren't so darn difficult... It'd be hall of fame material. And the help file is lacking, as there's no list of turret capabilities. A lot was found by trial and error. And the top level tech is WAY too expensive. As it is, I can only give it an 8.

HINT: to survive the final 10 levels (more like 7, as the 41-43 are doable) you need to have a LOT of money (like 1000 gold) left over from earlier levels. Somehow, you need to figure out what's the MINIMUM amount of turrets needed to survive each level. And build ONLY THAT. The trick in accumulating money is by using the "interest". Remember, every piece of gold unused earns interest. So the objective is to leave the max amount of gold possible unused, so you earn max compound interest, yet still have enough firepower to destroy most of the enemies.

HINT: Get as much use out of EACH turret/tower as you can. Put them where they can attack the enemy MORE than once (like when the path crosses back on itself). This allows you to minimize the number of towers you need to place, thus saving you $$$. Second best spots for turrets are corners, but not just right at the corners, but maybe slightly back, depending on the range of the turret, so they cover the max amount of the path possible. Cover the path as much as possible. Nothing else matters.

HINT: Cold turrets, esp. when upgraded, slows enemy units down as well as hurting them. Put the cold turret(s) first when in groups, so the rest of the turrets have max time to use the slower speed of the enemy to do more damage.

HINT: The rock/boulder/powder/cannon series of towers will engage air type enemy, but they don't do as much damage as an anti-air tower. On the other hand, the stick/arrow/crossbow/gatling type tower do NOT engage air type enemy at all, except bosses.

HINT: It's better to have a "few" of the strongest turrets, than a lot of the weaker turrets. The final turret upgrades gives you gatling gun (beyond crossbow) and cannon (instead of powder), and air 3 (instead of air 2). However, those turrets are EXPENSIVE (gatling is 185, cannon is 280, and air 3... I think it's 380), and that's the UPGRADE price. That's why you want to save a LOT of money from early on. So you can afford these at the end. Believe me, you will need a LOT of max upgraded turrets by the end... all gatlings, all cannons. I ended up using at least two cold 3 towers, at least 2 flame turrets, and at least 4 air 3 turrets, in addition to all the gatling and cannon turrets that are already in place. There are BETTER upgrade beyond that, but they're not strictly necessary.

Overall rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: tower defense melded with Civ 4 tech tree and upgrades! easy to learn, hard to master
Cons: bad difficulty progression at the end, only peripherally related to Civ 4, not enough info about the towers

ADDENDUM: as it turns out, the final level upgrade is absolute essential in surviving the final wave. You *could* do without them, but it makes the game that much harder. The final pulse tower puts out 800 damage every half second, and is effective against both ground AND air targets. Put up two of these, plus a missile turret, and nothing will get past, not even the final razorjets. Of course, one cost $900, and the other $1000. So you need $$$ saved up.

Forget about other tech upgrades. You just need stuff that gives you higher tech, and higher interest rates. Nothing else matters. Oh, and you'll need physics and chemistry to get cold turrets, which will get you to pulse and missile turrets.

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KMGR of "Terminator Salvation"

The worst of all possible AI scenarios: the Te...Image via Wikipedia

Terminator Salvation the mobile game from Gameloft is a fine adaptation of the upcoming movie. Without spoiling the plot, you'll play multiple characters in the game, in this semi-3D action shooter. It has good graphics, decent sound, and lots of action, and captures the essence of the game without going overboard. It delievers a excellent game experience overall.

TS uses a semi-3D third-person engine. I said "semi-3D" as you cannot turn. You can only face "forward". You can run left /right, and a bit of forward and back (but mostly forward). The cursor auto-aims a bit (thogh you can override and switch targets if you wish). The shooting mechanics doesn't change between modes, and there are different modes: 3rd person shooter mode, H/K flyer mode, moto-terminator mode, and a rail-shooter mode. That is good design.

Most of the game is 3rd person shooter mode. You play as either Connor or Marcus. And you shoot Terminators, all models. Connor can take cover behind the low walls and jump over the low walls, while Marcus can push those walls. Most weapons have unlimited ammo, but there's a reload time. Other weapons, such as a gatling, can overheat and requires cooldown after intensive use. You sometimes get reloads for the grenade launcher and that adds a bit of firepower. Sometimes there are "gas tanks" and such explosive stuff you can shoot and take out a whole bunch of Terminators at once. There is also "hacking", which will consist of one of two minigames: either "hack the passcode", where you do the "higher or lower" logic on a number pad from 0 to 9, or "bypass the circuit", where you need to power the green gates without actvating the red gates. Both are quite easy. Finally, 3rd person mode often reqires a bit of jumping and platform hopping, over mines, past laser barriers, through suicide drones, and so on. The only annoying thing about the 3rd person mdoe is the jumping... There are some portions where careful jumps and runs are critical else you'll be caught by the traps, of fall off the edge, and whatnot.

The HK flyer mode is just one mission... Basically, the resistance have captured/hacked a Hunter/Killer flyer, and needs to fly it to a facility where it can be studied, but obviously Terminators have lined the flight path, and your fuel is limited so you can't take the long way around. Take control of the H/K flyer, avoid obstacles strew acros the streets, shoot any one in your way, and get the H/K back. Controls are now up/down/left right but shooting controls are still the same.

The rail-shotoer mode is self-explanatory. You are on the back of one of Resistance "technicals" and you get to shoot at all bad guys... T-1s, T-600s, aerostats, and later, a Harvester. Yes, a big huge nasty harvester. Same shooting controls, except the gatling can overheat, so only shoot in short bursts.

Finally, the moto-terminator mode is one mission where one rides down the highway, shooting at all bad guys without running into walls and mines, and make the occasional 'jumps'. Again, same shooting controls.

Gameloft's designers must be commended, as each level has its own unique challenges, and adds just enough new elements to be challenging, but not so much that you felt like you are playing something else. The consistent shooting interface certain helps, While the graphics aren't the greatest, the semi-3D helps keep framerates up and costs down, while still providing a good gaming experience. It's the kind of ingenious thinking I want to see in mobile games, as true 3D usually leads to bad frame rates.

Music is the familiar Terminator theme (specifically, from T2's intro). There are actually FOUR difficulty levels for those who can't get enough of the 9 levels in the game. And if you perform some special feats, such as get 20 melee kills (yes, you CAN combat a terminator by hand, usually by knocking their heads off), you can unlock something special (haven't figured out what they are yet).

All in all, TS is a fine example of what a movie to game adaptation SHOULD be done. it's fun to play, different levels are challenging without being too difficult (esp. if you keep it in EASY mdoe). And each level introduced something new to master. The graphics are good enough, and music is not annoying. That's a good game by almost any definition.

Overall rating: 8.5 out of 10 (hall of fame!)
Pros: conssitent interface, good semi-3D graphcis, nice difficulty curve
Cons: not true 3D, some "Mario" moments about jumping and such

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KMGR of "Star Wars Battlefront: Mobile Squadron"

Galactic Republic EmblemImage via Wikipedia

Star Wars Battlefront: Mobile Squadron is an interesting attempt to add meta gaming to a perfectly simple game, but the end result falls a bit flat, as it's really just a fancy version of "shooting gallery".

In SWB:MS (just SWB from now on), you can join one of two campaigns: the Galactic Civil War (i.e. Rebels vs. Empire), or the Clone Wars (Republic vs. CIS). The only difference is the planets and locations on the planets available. There are X planets on the map. Each planet has three "locations" where missions can happen. You can choose to go to a specific planet / location, or you can do "instant action" while playing online and you'll be sent randomly to a location.

Once there, you realize that the whole game is just really a shooting gallery, albeit with a bit of variation. You can choose one of three units on each side: a regular grunt, a heavy weapons guy, or a sniper. Regular grunt have the fastest shooting weapon, but each shot only covers ONE spot on the level. Heavy weapon shoots slower, but covers 4 spots on the level. Finally, sniper shoots slowest, but fires 3 shots at once in a vertical spread. If there's an emergency, you can activate one of your "grenades" which will do the whole screen a bit of damage. You may periodically pick up more grenades, bacta tank first-aid (but only if you have been wounded), and minitank (20 seconds of wide-shots, covering SIX spots).

Each map consists of 3 stages. Clear all three stages of enemies, and you "win" the level. And you of course, clear the enemies by shooting them. Some enemies require two shots, so be careful. You only have five "grenades" (but you can pick up more if they appear by shooting them when they do).

So what exactly is the "meta game"? You get "control points" for each kill. In a typical "normal difficulty" mission you can score about 1400 points. There's also easy, hard, and extreme levels of difficulty should you need more varieties. Control points at each battle location (remember, multiple planets, each planets has 3 battle locatios) have each side's control points tallied, and totaled to see who has control of which location, and the side who owns two out of three (or more) locations of planet owns the planet.

You also get medals in each mission for special accmplishments, such as score X points without getting hit, getting lots of grenade kills, and so on. What's more, you also get AWARDS (handed out once a week) for special accomplishments, such as 30 100% accuracy games in a week. Finally, there are elite "squadrons" that you can be "assigned to" once you meet the criteria (once a month).

While the idea of "meta gaming" is good, picking something as simple as "shooting gallery" just doesn't quite make sense, even though it's a pretty well done one. All battle locations are nearly the same. The "grid" where enemies appear is a little different, and the background plate is different, but otherwise, it's the same thing level after level, location after location.

And that's it, really. The meta-gaming is a bit of a fluff when you get right down to it. Basically, you play the shooting gallery a lot fo accumulate poins for the "meta" contest of various locations.

Thus, while the game is somewhat interesting, it is at its heart, a gallery-gallery game, and thus, it can oly received 7/10 as the game's too simplistic.

Overlal rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: easy to setup, Star Wars-y
Cons: just a very fancy shooting gallery, rest sounds more impressive than it really it

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KMGR of "Lemmings Tribes"

Lemmings (video game)Image via Wikipedia

Lemmings Tribes is a mobile version of the latest variation of Lemmings franchise. For those who have played Lemmings, the theme is the same: lemmings are dumb, and will walk, and fall to their deaths if you don't "guide" them. The objective is to guide as many of them as possible to the "exit", by using the existing lemmings in various special abilities as given for that level. The special abilities varies depending on which tribe you're with, but the general idea is the same. In other words, it's a "real-time" puzzle.

The classic mode has the more abilities, many of them quite amusing, such as "explode", "block", "parachute", and so on. The two new "tribes" added new areas to play in, and completely new set of abilities. In space, your new abilities are "rocket pack", "magnetic shoe", "grenade launcher", and so on. In medieval, your new abilities are "Icarus wings", "ceiling walk", and such. New levels also have their unique challenges and requires different ways of thinking from the classic mode.

Note that each special ability can only be used a certain amount of times, and thus, it will require you to think about how many lemmings you must rescue, vs. how many are out there. Some levels also have a time limit, which will affect your planning as well. Fortunately, there IS a pause button, and you CAN issue orders while paused. Some levels require timing, while other require precision, and the hardest ones require both, several times over.

I have played Lemmings before, and it was quite a bit of fun and challenging, as it's certainly a break from your typical puzzle fare. Lemmings Tribe is a bit more MOTS (more of the same), but it does feel a bit refreshed. And with 15 levels PER tribe, it'll take you a while to get through all of them. Even better, you actually get different awards depending on how well you finish. You can pass the level, but not get the "best" score. In which case, you'll merely get a "checkmark" instead of a "gold star" next to the level name. So it will take you a while to figure out the best solution.

Graphics is good, considering the limited amount of pixels they have to work with. Each lemming is only a few pixels, yet the animators managed to pack a lot of motion into those few pixels. Background is tolerable, but then it's perfect for the gameplay, and does not distract from it. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the sound. The only sound is an annoying tune, I think it's "the Entertainer", and it's non-stop auto-repeat. I had to turn it off as it's absolutely annoying. There's no volume control, and there are no game sounds.

All in all, Lemmings Tribes is a fun little package that manages to be entertaining, and retain the familiar Lemmings charm, while still adding a few new elements. Unfortunately, the makers forgot to put in the ability to turn off the annoying music, and the game sounds are lacking. Also, there really isn't THAT much new here, and some of the levels are VERY hard. Thus, this gets a 7.5... good, but not great.

Overall rating: 7.5 out of 10
Pros: same Lemmings charm, some new elements, lots of levels
Cons: can't turn off music, more of the same, some levels way too hard

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Some previews... of hottest mobile games

Mafia Wars: New York -- isometric shooter and top-down driver, plus a "wiseman" plot (action)

Lemmings Tribes -- Lemmings, times 3 with special abilities (puzzle)

Star Wars Battlefront: Mobile Squadron -- shooting gallery with a bit online metagaming (action)

Terminator Salvation -- a decent semi-3D shooter following the latest Terminator movie (action)

Sid Meier's Civ 4: Defender of the Gates -- tower defense infused with a bit of Civ4 (strategy/puzzle)

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KMGR of "Mafia Wars New York"

Digital Chocolate finally decided to go into more serious games, and the result is "Mafia Wars: New York", where you play an infiltration agent for the FBI trying to get into the Spenelli mafia business... and bring it down from within. There are essentially two games... an isometric real-time game where you must move around, sometimes avoiding enemies, sometimes actually kill enemies. The other game is a top-down driving game, similar to the original Grand Theft Auto, where you may have to chase, escape, tail, and so on.

The game gives you moral choices. In the isometric game, the more civilians, cops, and guards you kill, the deeper you sink to the "mafia" side. The more "evidence" you collect, the more "newspapers" you read, and the more you report in via payphone, and more gangsters you kill, the more you swing to the "law" side. Depending on how far you swing, you can get one of three endings: bad, good, and best.

The isometric portion is real-time, and you will have to exploit your advantages in order to advance, esp. in the later levels, when the odds are almost overwhelming, and some split-timing decisions must be made. You can sometimes find additional weapons, such as SMGs and shotgun, as well as molotov cocktails and grenades. You always have your pistol and fist.

TIP: During the stealth missions, where you must sneak, if you catch an enemy from behind, one punch will lay him out cold.

TIP: Your pistol will kill with 3 hits. SMG needs five hits. Shotgun... one or two.

The isometric missions are varied and are sometimes quite exciting. Some are just "kill the gangsters", and you can go "Rambo" on those. The idea is to spread them out a little, so you have time to shoot one three times before the other guy comes into range and start shooting. If you got a group, feed them a grenade or a molotov cocktail (if you got them). Against security guards... It's best to avoid them. They all have patterns, and it's possible to avoid detection, often by following behind them. What's more, you can hide behind boxes and such by pushing up against it, and shoot by popping out from behind them. You can also jump over such obstacles by pushing up against it and keep pushing.

The graphics are a bit simple, but nicely animated, and mission objectives are quite clear, but HOW you'd go about it is purposely left a bit vague, so you can decide on your own approach. You *could* go Rambo every mission and kill every single guard or gangster you come across, but you'll probably end up on the "lawless" side if you play that way. On the other hand, if stealth isn't working, perhaps it's time to go Rambo. For example, in the second to last mission, I tried about 10 times to infiltrate the compound by stealth before I realized it's not possible. So I started picking off the gangsters one by one until I cleared the map.

As mentioned before, there are often "evidence(s)" and "newspapers" (in those newsracks) and "payphones" you should go to in order to get the "best" ending. How you get there is up to you.

Shooting is done with auto-aim... If enemy is in range, a red reticule appears around him, then you shoot. If he's moving, your shot may not hit, unless he's coming toward you. Your pistol doesn't shoot that fast, so it's best to keep your distance. You have unlimited ammo for the pistol. Controls are pretty intuitive and responsive. If you keep getting killed, you're doing something wrong and must think of something else to do.

The driving game is a bit exciting, as the vehicles you drive fishtail around corners like stunt cars. And you will drive a variety of vehicles, though most behave the same way. The city has alleys, parks, and so on, and learning those alleys is the best way to escape from pursuit. Often, a mission requires you to survive X seconds, lose the pursuers, then finally reach a spot on the map for "exit". Those missions can be very tough, as the hostile cars are generated randomly, as are the traffic. You may have to try MANY MANY times to get past some of the toughest missions.

And yes, your driving skill (presumably, "close calls") and collisions with civilian vehicles are counted.

Overall game is a pretty slick game that keeps things exciting and varied, as each mission is a bit different. The mission writers squeezed a lot of mileage out of these two game engines, and managed to include a coherent plot to tie the whole thing together, and that moral choice thing is just icing on the cake. All in all, one of the better games in recent months. I can give this one an 8.5, though it does have a mature subject matter.

Overall rating: 8.5 out of 10 (hall of fame!)
Pros: lots of varied missions, two different game modes: isometric, and topbut tha-down driving, coherent plot
Cons: some driving missions WAY too tough, not all options are clear, such as how to get "best" ending

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KMGR of "Tiger Woods PGA Golf 2009"

A golf ball directly before the holeImage via Wikipedia

Tiger Woods PGA Golf is the juggernaut that pretty much relegated everybody else's golf game to an also-ran. Does the game continue its dominance in the mobile platform? Absolutely! With feature set that puts other golf games to shame! If you enjoy a round or two of golf whereever you are, you need to get this game. It's got everybody beat, just about.

TWG comes with no less than SIX complete PGA 18-hole courses. However, only one is included with the download. The rest you have to spend more bandwidth to download separately. Pebble Beach, Pinehurst, Bay Hill... And you can even download PGA players to play as or along with.

The graphics are full 3D. Thus, it can give you a "ball cam" where the camera follows the golf ball's trajectory all the way to where it lands. There are real contours in the landscape. Bunkers and sand traps actually LOOK lower than the rest of the terrain. Even the fairway can be sloped, and water hazards really DO look much lower. All the textures look right, and the scoreboards have actual PGA logos on them. What's more, the vibration effects are perfect, as are the sound effects. Hit the ball just right (at the "sweet spot") and you can feel the vibrations and the clean "snap" of the impact. Hear the "tock" of the putt, and FEEL and HEAR the ball fall into the hole. It's all there.

The controls are simple: a "power meter" is used to determine hit power. Hit OK to start the meter, and hit OK again to stop the meter, which is the power that will be used. If you go beyond 100% and was too late to get 100%, you'll get a reduced power due to suboptimal stroke. If you want to force a ball spin to either side, hold one of the "side spin" keys during the stroke. Changing clubs is a simple up/down arrow, and aimming simple lett/right. Remember to account for the wind and terrain before comiiting to strength you plan. An estimated distance to pin is availble, but that doesn't ake into account wind, terrain, difference in height, and if you are chipping.

Putting is also excellent. The grid displayed actually shows you to contour of the green, with moving dots actually showing you the slope and direction of the grade! And you can turn the golfer off if it's blocking your view. There's even a putt path predictor that shows you the probably path of the ball if you putt at the recommended strength.

TWG has no less than four game modes: practice, quick game, tournament, and challenge. Game is available in three difficulty levels: amateur, pro, and legend. As you play, you also pick up "trophy balls" for certain achievements, such as "high and dry" (play through 18 holes without landing in water or sandtrap), "eagle eye" (got an "eagle" on any hole), "the bomber" (achieve over 325 yards in a single hit), and more for each course. Challenge gives you 10 strokes to finish up 3 holes where you don't start from the tee. However, alternative scoring modes, such as "skins", "match play", and so on, are not available.

In final thought, TWG is a complete package that is superior is almost every aspect than any other mobile golf game out there. And that's across the board. The overall package is simply one of the best golf games available on the market. If you like golf, you should not miss this game, period.

Overall rating: 9 out of 10 (Hall of fame!)
Pros: great 3D graphics, courses, players... just about everything!
Cons: it's missing some alternative scores, like skins, and such, but that's almost nitpicking

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KMGR of "Houdini's Infinite Escapes"

Houdini and his wife BessImage via Wikipedia

Another one of these puzzle adventures, this one uses Houdini and his museum as a theme. Is it good? Not too bad, but it's a bit too short, with only like half a dozen "rooms" to solve, and most involves "hunt the pixel". However, it's nice that the choices are a bit less as the "hand" moves by "chunks", limited your choices and frustration. Overall, it's a pretty good design, it it may help you to know a bit about Houdini history, but you'll also learn some as you play. Just wish it has more rooms, but the maker promised to release more downloadable puzzles for free.

Without spoiling the game, basically you allegedly fell asleep and was locked inside the Houdini Museum. The only way out is "through", and you'll be helped along the way by Jeeves, the ghost of Houdini's butler. Each room has a series of puzzles you must solve based partially by Houdini's life, and once you solve it all, you proceed to the next room. At the end of room X you will escape to the outside, and end the game. Each level also has two pieces of a playing card hidden as a "bonus" puzzle.

The puzzles are logical and can be solved with just a bit of logical thinking. I solved the whole thing (including finding the bonus pieces) in a few hours, so it's not that hard. The downloadable puzzle, on the other hand, will take a bit longer. Basically, it's about finding parts, and using those parts at the right places. And lock puzzles are just chain tumbler exercises. There are some combination locks around, but the combination is usually given nearby. Even more complicated puzzles have hints left nearby, and every object you find have some uses. It's a nice puzzler.

The use of Houdini references are good, such as Transformation, water chamber escape, and so on.

All in all, Houdini's Infinite Escapes is an "adventure puzzler" that should delight the younger audience. The older players may find it a bit short and a bit too easy, but it is nicely produced and teaches you a bit about Harry Houdini (which is not his real name).

Overall rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: good Houdini reference, good combination of puzzles, reduced pixel hunt
Cons: not that difficult or challenging, inabiiity to skip the dialogues, very short

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KMGR of "Star Trek"

Enterprise replica in VulcanImage via Wikipedia

EA managed to snag the Star Trek mobile game license. And what did they produce? A Galaga clone. No, I'm NOT kidding.

You control the "Enterprise". Your "campaign" consists of 12 missions divided into three race campaigns, against Klingons, Cardasians,and Romulans. And all you do is destroy/destroy/destroy. You can earn "stars" by completing special mission objectives, such as "kill all squadron leaders" or "kill 80% of all enemy ships", and so on Three stars per mission... First one is just finish the mission. 2nd is moderately difficult, but doable after a bit of practice. Last one is downright difficult. You can also get stars for special achievements, but those would be extremely difficult, such as "getting through all four Klingon missions without a restart". The stars can then be redeemed for ship upgrades.

There are four areas of the ship to upgrade: torpedoes, phasers, shields, and tractor beams. Each can be upgraded three times, at considerably cost. First level is just 1 star, second level is 3 stars... Third level is 5 stars. As you can get a max of 3 stars per mission, and some objectives are just about impossible to accomplish, you will have to pick and choose. However, the top level upgrades are very powerful. Top level tractor beam will grab smaller enemy ships and either toss them away, or toss them into other enemy ships. Top level torpedo are homing, which follows the target. However, those require FIVE stars to get, and requires previous level upgrade.

So you move the Enterprise up and down, left and right. Torpedoes and phasers fire automatically. Enemies move up and down the screen, left and right, diving and swooping. Klingon Birds of Prey, Cardassian Hideki fighters... then later you run into larger ships... Klingon K't'inga and Vor'cha cruisers, Cardassian Keldons... stationary defense turrets and barrier lasers.... The screen can get VERY busy, esp. when some enemy ships seem to be kamikazes... until you study their pattern and avoid their paths.

You pick up powerups too. Deflector shields bounced enemy shots back at them. Torpedoes and phaser enhances your ship. Your tractor beam pulls in goodies, either repair kits or enemy survivors from wreckage. Repair kits help you restore ship, while crew gives you extra points. Wingmen gives you two smaller ships that flies in formation with you shooting torpedoes, while phasers and or torpedoes gives you an extra weapon (until you are hit 3 times). You can also pick up chain phaser or homing torpedo powerups, but those are short duration. You also pick up special weapons, such as EMP bomb. When things are desperate, you can activate the special weapons, if you have any left. EMP Bomb, erases all the shots on screen as well as freezes all enemies on screen. The ultimate would be the phaser cannon, which basically is a death beam... Just sweep it across the screen, and it will wipe out enemy shots as well as enemies. Unfortunately it only last about 10 seconds. :D

And this game is all action. All shot avoidance. It really is a Galaga clone, albeit pretty. Enemies come in very predictable pattern, though the shots are aimed at you, so by staying in particular place and move at the last second you can avoid a lot of the shots. The trick is, of course, to not get killed. Killing enemies is almost secondary. Those upgrades does come in handy at later levels, as you are able to engage more targets at once.

All in all, Star Trek the game is basically a Galaga clone, albeit with a bit of Star Trek trappings. It's not really in the spirit of Star Trek, but it is a pretty decent shooter. While some sections are nearly impossible without the right upgrades, the "dreaded" Romulan campaign turned out to be a breeze. Graphics are quite good for a mobile, but it has two large black borders on either side of the screen, and that's bad. Sound is okay, and vibrations are just simple shakes when a big enemy ship gets destroyed, nothing else. This game is a compentent shooter, and nothing more.

Overall rating: 6.5 out of 10.
Pros: good graphics, good challenges at each level
Cons: it's STILL a glorified Galaga (tm), nothing more

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KMGR of "Wolverine"

Wolverine (comics)Image via Wikipedia

Wolverine gets his own game... Is it any good? I don't think so. There's also this section I found troubling... As it's out of character. In the end, it's not that good of a game.

The game follows the plot of the movie... Wolverine is out to seek revenge against Stryker. However, the game starts with his escape from the Weapon X lab. That is relatively easy, so you can get your bearings. While Wolverine is pretty darn tough, he is not indestructible. To make it more "arcade-y", they added "X" throughout levels so you can collect and unlock additional "moves", as well as "mutagens" (green globs) you can collect to enhance your attack and regen powers.

The game is standard "platform" with a bit of beat-em'up thrown-in. Wolverine has just his claws. He can crouch and attack low, or stand and attack high. He's supposed to have a fatality move, but it's harder to execute than it sounds, and additional moves can be "purchased" later by collecting the X-men X's around the various levels. He can jump, glide down long tubes by using his claws as drag brakes, climb ledges, climb down ledges, break some floors by jumping up to a hang point and drop..., roll from a crouch, and so on.

Enemies do vary a bit. You start with standard "truncheon" armed troops, then came machine-gun armed troops, some of whom can rappel in. Later you will find snipers (who shoot you from a distance, and you need to run up and kill them). I'm sure later you'll find even worse enemies. There are also various booby traps. The laser tripwires are the worst, esp. those also armed with shape charges. One charge will kill even Logan.

One control most will overlook is the "defend" key. It is usually not used when you're fighting troops, but when fighting other mutants, as you see them as "level bosses", you'll find that this game just became ridiculously difficult. For example, in the first "boss" fight, you need to defeat "The Blob" to get information about Stryker's whereabouts. Unfortunately, the Blob is a HUGE guy that can beat even Logan into a pulp... if Logan let him. One must use defend properly to interrupt a mutant's attack to even score any damage.

For example, in chapter 4 you need to "infiltrate" Three Mile Island, where Stryker is hiding. Yes, I said infiltrate. When has Logan infiltrated ANYTHING? He just bashes right in. What's more, in this game you must kill NO MORE THAN THREE SOLDIERS. ARGH! You can't be seen either, else you'll have to kill the guy before you got discovered, but that goes on your kill count! ARGH! What's worse, there are some places that you can't get pass without killing the guy! Even more ARGH!

Sorry, but I'm stuck on level 4 and I can't figure a way around it.

Controls are sometimes a bit stiff, and the special moves like "death strike" are a bit to execute. Jumps are a bit hard to make too. The problem is mainly in the mutant fights. You have to DEFEND, then counter-attack to hurt a mutant, and a mutant can regen. So you pretty much have to figure out the other mutants attack and defense pattern, and fit your defense and attack into his pattern. Thus, the game becomes a rhythmic key tap game, not a fighting game. Not to mention that the other mutants heal faster than you. ARGH!

Sorry, this game is just way too hard, and when has Wolverine been stealthy about anything?

Overall rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Art is good, decent level design
Cons: Out of character, mutant combat is TEDIOUS

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KMGR of "Tarzan and Mrs. Tarzan"

Tarzan of the Apes book coverImage via Wikipedia

Tarzan and Mrs. Tarzan is basically a platform jumper, and a badly designed one. A cartoonish Tarzan runs around the "jungle" (that doesn't even LOOK like a jungle, as the levels don't look like trees and such) doing "fetch". Avoid the bad things like man-eater plants (you can "cut" them first with your trusty knife) and also collect bugs around the area. There' are also hidden objects up in corners and such that you can locate for bonuses.

While all these sounds good, the actual implementation leaves a lot to be desired. There's this "automove" that's always on. Once you start moving in one direction, it's impossible to stop. This makes precision work very difficult, when you have to jump properly at the right place to reach higher levels. This simply prevents precision movement, and makes the game very frustrating.

What's more, this Tarzan is middle-aged, looks more like a mix between Fred from the Flintstones and Elvis than the loin-clothed hero that you though you knew, and is NAGGED by his wife to "find my stuff". How is this "Tarzan"-y at all?

Sorry, this doesn't look like a Tarzan game, doesn't feel like a Tarzan game, and is a lousy platform game with horrible controls. I don't claim to be good at platform games, but I've made it to the end of most platform games with a bit of persistence. This one, I can't even get past level 3 out of 10.

Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Looks cute, nicely animated
Cons: Don't look Tarzan, lousy controls

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