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 "Spiderman: Toxic City 3D"

Electro (Marvel Comics)Image via Wikipedia

Green Goblin and others have broken out of Triskelion, and they are messing up Manhattan, home of Spiderman! Parker / Spiderman must beat a ton of evil minions, jump and web his way through the missions, and defeat the super-villains! This is basically a beat-em-up, with bonus stuff thrown in, and it's a pretty good one, with good graphics, action, and other things. This could be one of the best superhero game on mobile ever.

The game is 3D, but actually plays like an isometric beat-em-up, such as Double Dragon or Vigilante. You move "up-down" on the play field, and left / right as well, though you actually always progress from left to right, complete with a "Go!" sign when you've finished all the enemies in the segment. The cool part is the scene transitions, when isometric level actually show you making a 45 or 90 degree turn, and end up in another segment. This reinforces the 3D idea while keeping the game 2D. The occasional wall climbing and building jumping also helps in that regard.

All the Spidey moves are here. Web shooting, web swinging, acrobatic fighting, jump into air and continue beat-up, shoot web to drag enemy over then throw them, and so on. And of course, the spider-sense warnings. Enemies near, falling objects,, boss attack warning... all there.

I admit I'm not completely familiar with the Spiderman lore, other than the movies, so some of the villains like Rhino, Electro, and so on are not familiar to me, but they all represent unique challenges for Spiderman to fight, as each require different tactics, but basically they all have vulnerability, so it's pretty much dodge their attacks, wait until they "recharge", go in and beat-em-up, repeat when ready. Minions like thugs, goons, robots, and more abound.

Scattered throughout the levels are powerups. If you collect enough "golden spiders", you can improve Spiderman's powers in one of three areas: power, stamina, and special. (Special releases special attacks that freezes all enemies on screen) There are also hidden "comic books" throughout the levels that you can collect which will unlock more stuff. There's also heal and extra life stuff, as well as "special attack" which ties up all opponents for a few seconds, giving you time to wrap them up.

Between missions, you get a "bonus round" where you can collect as much bonus items on the level as you can.

Like most games now, this game has "achievements", like "collect 100 golden spiders", "defeat 200 enemies", and so on.

The graphics are good, very "comic-like", except YOU are controlling the action! Sound is adequate to above average. The plot is your typical "bad guys have escaped and Spiderman must clean up the city one portion at a time, which trying to keep girl-friend happy" Spiderman story, but so far it is well executed. The game is not TOO difficult at least early on, but later gets really hectic as you have to remember how to do throws instead of beat-downs, as some enemies explode when dead.

On the other hand, you can't help but feel that at the bottom of it all, it's just really a beat-em-up. Albeit a well-done one.

All in all, this is probably the best superhero game on mobile yet. I'll give it an 7.5/10, but not any higher, as it's still not much more than a beat-em-up.

Overall rating: 7.5 out of 10
One-liner: one of the best superhero game on mobile yet
Pros: good looking game with a lot of proper beat-em-up action
Cons: it's still just a beat-em-up, not much more

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KMGR of "Medieval Total War Mobile"

Mixed pike and shot formations in a seventeent...Image via Wikipedia

Medieval Total War is a part of Total War series that is both a strategy game as well as a battle simulation. Now that it's been ported to mobile, how did it fare? Quite well, but I am not sure about the game as a mobile game, and a huge bug almost sinks the game. The result is a game that only appeals to grognards (i.e. wargame fans) instead of most phone owners.

The port, as expected, is a bit of a reduction. You play one of the six factions, and the objective is to conquer the other five. The idea is to be diplomatic with some to delay the war with them, declare war on others on map mode, then conquer other's land with your units in battle mode by killing their units (in a turn-based battle). Each faction has advantages and disadvantages (Holy Roman Empire, for example, gets better/extra knights). And you need both diplomatic skills (know who to befriend, and who to go to war against) as well as tactical acumen in order to succeed. Oh, and there's a little bit of economy... Each territory you fully control gets you 100 florins. You can plunder that territory for an extra 100 florins, but it drops your popularity by 15%. And to invade a territory costs $$$ for your units, and to ship your units over. Each territory has several sections you must conquer via paying for the invasion, and win the battle.

A full campaign starts on the strategic map, where you decide what you want to do with each faction (including your own). Everybody else starts off at 50% relations with your faction. Send an emissary to a faction and they'll ask you to do something... It could be "reduce your relations with X by Y% (for Z florins)". If you approve, you get a gain of relations, like 2-4% with that faction (and maybe a little money). Refusal may result in a reduction of relations. As for your own territory, you can plunder your own territory for some emergency cash, but this will result in a 15% drop in popularity. Drop too far, and a rebellion may just ruin your day (or some other faction could do it to you!).

Strangely, there is no "end turn" control any where, after I had sent emissaries everywhere, and made my decision NOT to plunder my own empire. So I basically have to declare war on someone just for the heck of it. This wasn't explained anywhere.

If you choose to declare war, and you can only be at war with one faction at a time, then you must choose which of the 5 or 6 regions you choose to attack. Each has an attack cost and you can only invade if you have the money! Keep in mind that each faction have their own unique units. If you conquer the enemy faction's capital, you'll learn their secrets and get some of those units in the future. When England was conquered, secrets of Axeman and Horse Archer was discovered. When the French capital was conquered, secrets of Trebuchet and Axeman were discovered.

That leads us to the battle mode. It's 2D hex-based map, turn-based, and surprisingly detailed. You do NOT get to choose the composition of your army. You simply make do with whatever you have. Though you can get pikeman, swordsman, archer, horse archers, axeman, catapults, trebuchets, and knights, oh, and a "general" (probably more I haven't found yet). Different terrain have different modifiers. Even facing is taken into account, as flanking will cause a LOT of casualties vs. regular head-on fights. So, when in doubt, englobe! And if englobed, retreat back to back and circle the wagons! Different units are rated for different movement (# of moves on the hex map), offense, and defense, and terrain can aid or hinder one or the other.

The problem is the interface. There is only one action key, which means you click on a unit to bring up a menu, which then determines what you want to do, then you move the cursor around some more, such as choosing attack target, movement path, and so on. While it's usable, it doesn't really use the softkeys much, if at all, and certainly didn't even TRY to use a phone with QWERTY keyboard. However, the interface does have more function then you'd suspect. For example, it is possible to make a unit turn 180 degrees, or go around, encircle enemy and attack their back/flank, using the "landmark" command.

To win a battle, you can either go after enemy units, or go straight for the enemy HQ, which is a small fort or castle. Stay there 3 turns, and you win! You have an HQ too, so don't leave it naked. Or you can surrender, but what fun is that? At the end of battle, your units are converted back to florins, which is another way of saying "don't waste your units, else it'll cripple your economy!" Remember, it takes anywhere from 70 to 300 to invade merely ONE enemy region (out of 5) and your income starts at a mere 100 florins. You can plunder to add another $100, but you can only do so every once in a while. You *could* demand tribute from other factions, but they will get mad as well, and you get less than plundering your own territory.

Unfortunately, there is no tutorial mode, and the help screen just go over the basics. There's a "battle mode" where you can practice the tactical battles on over a dozen different maps without worrying about the diplomatic front. And there doesn't seem to be any mention of sieges. And there is actually a separate help screen accessible from the battle mode that goes into more detail about the various things. However, you have to read the help in detail to even hear about this other help file.

HINT: knights and swordsmen and axeman kill archers. Pikeman is great against anything mounted, i.e. knights and horse archers, and halberdiers and elite pikemen are even better. Axeman and swordsman kill pikeman. Catapult and trebuchet are best used against targets in the open, or to beat down a castle wall so you don't have to go through the main entrance. Knights are best used in the open to flank enemy units.

If your territories are doing well (i.e. high approval) and/or you have allies, they may send reinforcements (free units) at sometime during the battle. Or if you really have a lot of $$$, you can "hire units" from the HQ, which brings in a mercenary unit. Those are costly, so don't do it unless you really need it.

Initial impression was that they cut out a bit too much, but I understand the decisions made. I just wish their help screen is a bit more useful, as the mechanics of the diplomatic screen isn't as clear as it could be, and the tactical/battle screen is slightly clunky when there are more than half-dozen units per side (and when you invade a country, you WILL get to command over a dozen units). Fortunately, battles and campaigns are auto-saved. So you can resume at almost any time.

You can play "Battle mode" alone and select any of the 6 factions against any of the other factions, on any of the a dozen or so maps, and each have their own challenges. However, the AI is lacking. I've played about two dozen battles now, and I have yet to lose a single battle, even though in many cases I was severely outnumbered. The AI was overly aggressive in some cases, and strangely passive in others (often allowing me to simply shoot their units with archers and siege weapons while leaving them there). If I have a trebuchet or catapult, I can almost guarantee winning any engagement, as the AI just try to rush me to their doom.

There is also a MAJOR bug in the game I'm surprised they didn't catch. If you quit the campaign from the "diplomatic map", and then continue the campaign later, you'll find that a lot of your gold is gone. For example, after conquering 4 of the 5 other powers, I know I had 457 (or so) Florins. I quit the game. When I came back into the game, I'm down to 242 Florins. That means I no longer have enough to pay for the invasion, which now cost over 300 Florins. However, I cannot plunder any of my territories either. None of my own territories will pop up the sub-menu when selected. So now, I am STUCK, as there are no actions that can be taken. I've said before, there is no "end turn" button so I can replenish my treasury. And this is repeatable in earlier stages of the game as well.

So far, this game gets a 6.5 out of 10. It has potential as a LONG-term game, but it doesn't work as a temporary diversion. It would have got a 7.5 except for -1.0 for the HUGE gameplay bug.

Overall rating: 6.5 out of 10 (includes -1.0 for a huge bug)
One-liner: impressive mobile port, but probably too slow/complicated except for mobile game grognards
Pros: detailed diplomatic model and tactical battles (for a mobile game)
Cons: clunky interface, slow game pace, lack of detail help and/or tutorial, HUGE bug in diplomatic map mode that gets the game STUCK

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KMGR of "Big Range Hunting 2"

Half-opened bolt on a Winchester Model 70.
Big Range Hunting 2 is a hunting sim that gives you multiple locations hunting multiple types of game, be it predator, prey, or just birds. You can even fish in this game and be a completely sportsman. With four locations, multiple missions per location, some random exploration, and infinite free play, this game gets the right balance between "rail shooter", deer hunter, and a more complicated shooting sim, AND fishing, all on a mobile.

You start off hunting black bear, deer, and turkey in Maine, and fish for trout and bass. You then move to Alaska for polar bear, moose, duck, and two types of salmon. If you got all the missions right, you then move to Louisiana, where you hunt gators, whitetail deer, pheasants, and catfish. If you graduate from those, you go to Africa and hunt lions, impalas, goose, and tigerfish. Graphics are good, as different terrain are nicely depicted, both in 2D overhead and the 3D third-person view.

Your "guide" is Julie, drawn sort of anime-style, way too provacative (in a HALTER?) for hunting, but then, this is a game. She gives you the intro, the "events" briefing, and congratulates you when you complete the region.

You start at the 2D overhead view, called GPS view in the game, which you use to explore the map, and the map is distinctive from region to region. You start at one of outposts in the area. At the outpost, you can purchase more equipment if you've earned enough money through the hunts, you can participate in one of the special events (i.e. missions), or if it's available, travel to a different region. Equipment is mostly ammo, though you can also buy lures for fishing, better weapons, better camo, and better fishing rods (explained later).

Once you exit the outpost, you're at the GPS view. To help your hunt, the "GPS view" also indicates the trails of animals spotted within visible range (and the animals themselves, when you seethem), the current wind direction, and the direction of the outpost. If you go to a "dock", you can move onto water in dinghy, and there are certain 'fishing spots' designated on the water. You will find a lot of docks here and there, even a few bridges. And beware, amphib predators like a gator WILL attack you on water if you get too close.

Wind direction is important because many animals use scent to detect danger or prey, and you don't want to be upwind of them, else they run before you can target them.

The world happens with or without you. Predators hunt prey, prey run from predatosr, bird stop to graze then fly off, fish... well, they swim. You can bypass them, or hunt them. It is up to you. The GPS view also indicates your view range. You can follow the trail (and sometimes, you have to hit OK to identify which type of trail is being left by what animal), and if you see the predator or prey in the view range, hit OK to begin the hunt. Remember, if you get too close to prey they'll bolt (including birds). If you get too close to predator they come after you. In MGS fashion, the animals, when alerted, gets a ! (exclamation mark) above their head, THEN they bolt. So keep your distance and watch out for shifting winds.

Once the hunt starts, you go into a third-person behind-the-shoulder view, which is 360 degree rotatable (just like "Deer Hunter"). You can switch weapons (camera is considered a weapon here) and take aim. If the target is offscreen, you get a left/right indicator telling you which way to turn to bring it into view. You could also release your trusty dog, which will either retrieve the shot animal for you, or act as a temporary distraction, giving you time to shoot.

To make the game interesting, the predators in this game are bloodthirsty... If they sense your presence, they come after you, be it gators, bears, or lions. Better have your weapon ready just in case. And if they get to point-blank range... You better aim for the vulnerable spots or you're going home in a bag. (Which means you restart at the nearest outpost, having lost a bit of progress) If you are wounded, go to the nearest outpost to get healed.

Many different weapons are available, but not all right at start. You start with shotgun and hunting rifle. Later you will get access to muzzleloader (a big shotgun, but slower loading), auto-shotgun (semi-auto, actually, faster shooting), scoped rifle (better hunting rifle), "sniper" rifle (with sniper scope and crosshair), bolt action sniper rifle (more stable), and crossbow (with two types of arrows, regular and steel). Different weapons have different characteristics and are used in different situations. Bird hunting virtually requires the use of a shotgun, while deer hunting is done with rifle, especially long-range takedowns. Crossbow is nearly silent, and useful for taking out a small herd.

In addition to the weapons, you also have a camera, and you can purchase a "caller" (as equipment at an outpost), which attracts prey to your location.

The shooting interface (which also includes the camera) is simple: a cross-hair appears on screen and you just point it at the target and when ready, hit OK to shoot. If you exhaust the magazine, reload is automatic, or you can hold the OK to manually reload. To further help you, a weapons crosshair will have a small red overlay if you aimmed at an animals vulnerable spot, such as head or heart. Camera has a viewfinder caret, and if you take the picture properly you'll get an ID of the animal, including its weight/size/type.

If there are no animals in the immediate view you are prompted to go back to GPS view and move along. Any animals killed then is counted, with bounty amount, weight, type/gender, as well as where your shot(s) went. When you move back to outpost, the largest are then added to your "trophy" collection.

The fishing or angling part is slightly less intuitive. You have to be on water, by moving onto water via one of the docks in the GPS view. You should then move to one of the fishing spots on the GPS view, and press OK to start fishing. You start with basic lure, and can buy more. You can also purchase better rods. There are four phases to "angling", aimming, casting, hooking, and reeling.

Aimming is determining where to cast. Even at a fishing spot, where the fish is almost visible as shadows from the boat, you will have to know which way to aim. Look at the shadows, and use the 360 degree fishfinder to help you determine which way you want to cast.

Casting is basically flicking the rod so the lure will go out, land on water, and sink. There's an indicator that moves up and down, indicating castng "strength". The higher the indicator is when you cast, the further it will go. The normal rod goes about 15 yards, while the best (titanium) rod can go 25 yards or more. This allows you to reach deeper depths, where the biggest fish lie.

Once the lure is cast, you then watch the depth indicator, where the lure will hit surface, then slowly sink toward the bottom as it slowly moves back toward you. To make things simpler, the depth indicator also indicates which fish is attracted to the lure if in range, and which one is actively biting. If you got one that's biting, hit OK to "hook" the fish, then you're into the reeling/fighting stage. Don't let the line tangle at the bottom either by letting it sink too far!

Once the fish is hooked, it will start to fight by making random left/right movements. You need to follow to prevent the tension on the line from exceeding the line strength, else the line will snap. So it's random left /right movements, with occasional seconds of calm as the fish gathers strength to keep dashing back and forth. You hit OK to reel the fish in when it is not struggling hard, always seeking to not over-tension the rod and the line. When the lne length reaches zero, you got the fish!

Each land animal or fish (including birds) you bag has a bounty/value. Predators are worth more. That income is what finances your equipment and ammo reloads. However, as there is really no end to the animals and fish and birds, your potential income is unlimited. You just need to spend some time doing free-play hunting (not contrained by an "event").

The events are interesting, as not all involves shooting, which others can be a rail-shooter, or fish, and so on. Missions include "take pictures of 8 ducks", "hunt down a pack of bears", "find the outpost to the north", "catch the super-sized catfish", and so on. Each outpost has three to four "events" such as those and those can be interesting, except the time-based ones, such as "get 10 ducks, I'll tell you when your time is up". Those often have VERY tight time constraints, but with no onscreen clock or indicator, you often ran out of time searching for the latest few objectives.

The rail-shooter sequence basically has you on the back of a truck shooting at various predators trying to overtake you. It's actually quite easy, as you don't have to rotate much and the targets pretty much move into your line of fire. You simply adjust aim and shoot when ready.

You get "skill points" for completing the missions. Every 10 skill points gives you a higher rank and a special bonus, such as "fish is now less scared of your lure landing on water", or "you are now more resistant to damage caused by predators". Rank starts from "wannabe" and goes all the way up to "gator's shadow".

Graphics, as stated before, are pretty good 2D bitmaps. Not photographic, but still nicely done and good enough for the purposes. While it's not as good as the 3D games, it's quite adequate. The icons and indicators are clear and easy to read. Sound is average, but I guess you don't need too many sounds for a hunting game. Interface is clear and not too cluttered with text.

If you need practice, there are two minigames you can play: shoot the can, and skeet shooting.

Shoot-the-can is basically precision shooting, repeated. An empty can is dropped. Shoot it to bounce it back into the air. When it drops, shoot it again, and again... and again... Until you miss and it drops to the gorund. Your objective is to keep the can airborne as long as you can. If you achieve 15 seconds, you'll start over and go for 20, and so on.

Skeet shooting is the sport where you grab a shotgun and shoot at "clay pigeons", basically frisbee-like targets. You are given a goal, like 8 out of 15. If you achieve that, you get a tougher one, and so on until you fail or can no longer succeed.

My main complaints are as follows: 1) shooting FEMALE prey is usually frowned upon in hunting, esp. deer, but makes no difference in this game 2) some of the timed events are very hard to do, while the other non-timed events are very easy 3) this game isn't that different from all the other hunting games at all. One CAN do 3D hunting games on a mobile, and this ain't it. Though they are rather... minor.

All in all, Big Range Hunting manages to simplify the hunting experience while keeping the game interesting and full of variety, and free-form. Even if you finished all the events, you can still go back to the variouslocations and try to score the biggest fish, or predator, or prey, or bird... Though is is mainly for brag-to-self rights. There is no "campaign" mode per se, but you can free hunt any time you like. There's no time limit, nor a clock coutning down the seconds you need for the highscore attempt, among other things. However, those are minor quibbles. The game is fun, not TOO difficult, and if you like the subject, you can give it a try.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Pros: easy and consistent controls (except fishing)
Cons: no real improvement from Deer Hunter, except fishing

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And now, a bonus update!

Medieval: Total WarImage via Wikipedia

Yes, a bonus update... more previews for July!

Big Range Hunting 2 (Gameloft) -- hunt predators, prey, and birds, plus angling for big fish at four locations around the world. Is this just glorified Deer Hunter? Or is this game actually fun?

Medieval: Total War Mobile -- Medieval Total War made it to mobile. Command one of the six factions and conquer Europe using both diplomatic skills and tactical skills. Will you be King of Europe? Or will you fade into historical obscurity?

Spiderman: Toxic City 3D -- Spiderman in a semi-3D beat-em-up featuring all the villains out to make life difficult for Peter Parker in Manhattan! Websling your way through thugs, robots, mutant minions, and plenty of supervillain bosses... But is it actually fun to play?

Stay tuned!

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KMGR of "Zenerchi Puzzle Energy"

ZenImage by Rickydavid via Flickr

Zenerchi Puzzle Energy is one of those puzzles that manages to get it just right, so you can't stop playing. It is based on the standard "match-3" formula that made Bejeweled and variations so easy to pick up. yet it manages to add its own twists, as well as various power ups, and introduce them in such gradual manner that eases the learning curve. This puzzle game is well produced with a lot of zen-like sayings. With three modes of play, this is bound to be a classic.

ZPE is basically a rotating wheel with multiple "levels". Press up/down to switch levels, and press left right to rotate that level clockwise or counter-clockwise. The idea is move the levels to create 3 touching sections of the same color. That'll disappear, and new random sections will appear to take their place. The objective is to "fill up" the core by match tiles with appropriate color, assembling the "zenerchi", so to speak.

Later levels introduce blockers, ring bursts, color bursts, section bursts, ring locks, counter-locks, and more. Each adds a new wrinkle to the basic puzzle. Also, most levels have two win conditions... basic, and expert. Normal win is basic. Expert win means score above a certain level. And that can be quite difficult, due to the time limit in effect.

There are three game modes: journey mode, zen mode, and free play. Journey mode is your typical 'adventure mode', with 25 levels of increasing difficulty, but each level has a timer. Zen mode is more about solving a puzzle in minimal moves without timer. While free play allow you to play any levels that you have unlocked without a timer.

Graphics is good, though you'd wish the fonts are a bit bigger. Music is sorta zen-like background music that you can easily do without. Sound effects are pretty standard.

After extensive play, I found the difficulty level to be almost unbearable at about half way into the journey mode. So many blocked pieces, as well as cross-locked rings makes levels time-consuming, but the timer is always running. I know my limits.

All in all, Zenerchi Puzzle Energy feels very Tetris-like in its addiction, with plenty of twists with those special powerups and downs. The basic concepts are simple enough, but the twists keeps the game difficult to master. And that's great game design. However, later levels are simply too difficult.

Overall score: 8.5 out of 10
Pros: Very easy to learn, yet hard to master
Cons: controls may not be the most intuitive, timer is very unforgiving, and some twists get kinda exotic

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KMGR of "Yeti Sports Collection Vol. I"

YetisportsImage via Wikipedia

Yeti Sports Volume 1 is mobile adaptation of some of the Flash-based games you've already played online. They are basically time-based single-button games. They are somewhat charming... for about 15 minutes. Then they become horribly boring. Probably more suitable for kids.

There are four games...

Pingu Throw -- a penguin jumps off the ledge, and the yeti have to "bat" the penguin as far as possible. Highest total yardage wins after 5 attempts.

Orca slap -- an orca will slap a penguin out of the water. Yeti must throw a snowball at the penguin in mid-air to knock the penguin into a "bullseye". The closer to the center the penguin hits, the higher the score. Ten attempts, max total score wins.

Seal Bounce -- yeti will twirl the penguin like a discus thrower, then release it hopefully UPWARD. If the penguin hit a seal (at periodic intervals) the penguin will bounce higher. The objective is to reach max total height after 5 attempts.

Penguin's Revenge -- Yeti will jump off a ledge. Fire the catapult to knock the yeti sideways, hopefully catching a bird. press OK to get the bird to fly higher, and further out to the right, but not TOO high, as vultures will get the yeti and carry him to the LEFT (decrease the distance). If the yeti is on the ground and stopped, he gets to launch himself 2 times, hopefully catching more birds. The objective is to get as far to the right as possible.

You see, these are pretty silly and time-based games. I personally got bored with all of them in about 5 minutes. It's a bit of silly fun, but that's all it is.

Graphics are average bitmaps, sound and music are not that bad, not that good.

Top 5 scores for each game are saved.

Overall, there really isn't much "game" here.

Overall score: 6 out of 10
Pros: simple games, cute for first 10-15 minutes
Cons: way too simple and timing-based for adults, boring after the initial novelty wears off

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KMGR of Ice Age 3 (mobile game)

Gone NuttyImage via Wikipedia

The movie-tie-in mobile game for Ice Age 3 doesn't really follow the movie, nor was it actually much fun. And the introduction of artificial time limits and lack of "direction" makes the game a lot less satisfying than it should or could be.

Basically, you play Buck or Sid as you run around the map, trying to collect dino eggs and nuts for Scrat. Sid gets ability to throw some stink bombs, while Buck has a whip and can swing from a tree like Indiana Jones.

The levels are colorful, and many are full of hazards... animal-eating plants, small dinos, and such. There are sometimes a timer that forces you to move else you get to restart the whole level. But it's standard 2D fare, nothing really special.

What's worse, I am stuck on level 2. I don't see any place to go, and the one place I thought I can get out the game says I must find another path, where there is none.

If a game can get a veteran player like me stuck on just level 2, something is very wrong with the game.

The sprites are nicely animated and but controls are a bit stiff. Music is forgettable.

Overall score: 5 out of 10
Pros: simple controls, looks okay for a tie-in
Cons: MAJOR difficulty issues... no obvious direction to go to.

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Mid July previews!

Yeti (Doctor Who)Image via Wikipedia

Yes, lots and lots of previews to come! Okay, just three, but I need to cut back after that SIX-GAME session.

Ice Age 3: Rise of Dinosaurs Mobile Game -- is this mobile game worthy of your gaming dollars? Or is it more like the dinosaurs: extinct?

Yeti Sports Collection Volume 1 -- Yeti games, which involves a Yeti abusing a bunch of penguins, has made it to the mobile. Is it fun, or is it repetitive as heck?

Zenerchi Puzzle Energy -- rotation puzzles aren't new. Connect-3 puzzles aren't new. But when you fit them together, you got something that's unique, and almost as addictive as Bejeweled or Tetris...

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KMGR of "Cash Cab"

Cash CabImage via Wikipedia

Cash Cab is a Discovery Channel program that chronicles the host, who drives a cab in New York, randomly pick up passengers, and ask them if they wish to participate in a general trivia contest. The mobile game captures much of the same spirit within reason, though I do wish they be a little more faithful to the show.

The objective is to accumulate as much money as possible within the time limit of the ride, without striking out (3 wrong answers). Generally there are more than one passenger, and both can agree on answers. There's also "shoutout" if they are stuck in that the taxi will stop and they ask any one walking by for the answer. It is fun watching the progress of the ride, as if you do strike out, you are asked to leave the cab then and there, no consolation prize. If you do reach your destination, you are given a chance to do a "double or nothing" question. You can refuse and walk off with the cash in hand, or you can do the question... Maybe double, maybe end up with nothing.

The mobile game is pretty much the same. The cab starts at a random location, and you can choose among the various destinations. The shortest ride is less than 2 minutes, while longest ride is almost 4 minutes. The longer the ride, the more questions you can answer, but on the other hand, the more chances for you to strike out and end with nothing. Consider the length of the ride to be a "difficulty level". The destinations are all tourist attractions in New York City.

You can choose a companion to go with you on the ride, and there are quite a few to choose from, each with their own expertise and hobbies, so may know something about some questions. Choose something that complements what you know, and you may score better than you think.

Any way, the ride starts, the timer starts counting, and you must choose among 4 answers. Remember, on the third strike, your ride is over! If you are not sure about the answer, you can ask your ride buddy. He or she will respond. The answer could be "I am sure it's _____" to "I am only half sure it's ____" or "I am not sure but I think it's _____" or even "My head hurts, I have no idea." You can then accept or reject the recommendation. However, there's no shout-out. The game combined the shoutout with the ask-your-friend.

The game's description claims over 1000 questions and after a dozen games I've only seen a few repeated questions. And you can turn on the answer (after you missed) to learn things (or leave it off, and stay in the dark). The final double-or-nothing question is there, as well as a bit of description about your destination. However, the description is not a feature of the show.

There really isn't much graphics, and the game often feels a bit too much like "Who wants to be a Millionaire?" with its 4 choice questions. At least ask your friend can be done every question. Just don't expect an answer.

There are actually THREE areas you can ride in. The objective is to ride through all destinations in each of the three areas, and see how much money can you accumulate total.

There are actually "three" save game slots. So in a sense, three people could compete and see who's the real Cash Cab Expert.

Overall, the game seems to catch the spirit of the show. If you like trivia games, this ain't a bad game to try. But it somehow doesn't quite have the Cash Cab feel.

Overall score: 6 out of 10
Pros: sticks relatively straight to the show
Cons: feels a bit too much like 'Millionaire' at times

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KMGR of "Verizon Racing Championship"

Laydown enduroImage via Wikipedia

Verizon Racing Championship is actually a slightly modified and rebadged version of EA's NASCAR '09 (mobile), which was reviewed earlier. Instead of real NASCAR numbers, colors, and drivers, you get names like "Go Kart George", "Speedy Sam", or "Blazing Billy". Otherwise, the controls and gameplay is identical. The game still has its charms, but why buy this generic stuff when you can play with real NASCAR cars?

To recap, VRC is a strategic and tactical racer. You don't actually need to steer or step on the gas or brakes. Instead, you use arrow keys to speed up or slow down, and to change lanes. You have three speeds: green (leisurely cruise), yellow (careful...), and red (I'm going all out!). Faster you go, the more tire wear you incur, and more fuel you will use. If you really worn down the tire, you may start losing control around the corners, and may even cause an accident or two!

You go faster while drafting another car. But the other car have to LET you draft... He could duck back into traffic, then you will just keep falling back while the whole train of cars whiz by. You also save fuel and tires while drafting, but you may not go as fast. Tire and fuel management is key. Nothing's more frustrating than running out of fuel on the final lap, or having the tires worn out just when you need to make a final push. And please try not to damage the car... repairs take time, and damage will affect top speed.

You can choose from abbreviated races all the way up to full 300 to 500 lap races. You can even choose to do a whole season of 26 different races and go for the Driver's Cup, or just play a race or two for fun.

Graphics is full 3D, and it's not bad, but could be smoother. Sounds are a bit lacking, as it's simple engine drone, tire screech, and occasional crunch of metal when you crash.

All in all, I really don't see why you'd pay for this game when there is the real version, EA's NASCAR '09 mobile around for the same price (or lower).

overall rating: 6.5 out of 10
Pros: tactical racer that doesn't need reflex, but do need tactics and tire/fuel management
Cons: just a rebadged game, why not get the original?

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KMGR of "Great Legends: Vikings"

Odin, sculpted bronze figure by Lee Lawrie. Do...Image via Wikipedia

Great Legends: Vikings is a standard "beat-em-up", in the vein of Double Dragon or Vigilante in the arcades. It really isn't much else, and that makes it sorta, well, boring.

You play Odin, one of the Viking gods, who has moved to human form in order to escape a curse about death of gods. Even in human form, he must wield his axe and defeat various form of evil to eventually challenge his evil brother Loki, blah blah blah. Back story isn't too bad, but predictable.

In the game, you will find controls a bit... stiff. There is only one "attack" button, but when combined with movement, gives you different moves, from standard swing to headbutt to others. You will learn more moves as the game progresses, so in a sense, there is always something to learn. There are scattered barrels and such you need to break for goodies, such as "steak" (heal), potions (magic), and so on. Magic basically has you charge up a meter by collecting potions. When the meter is full, hold down the "attack" key to unleash a super attack that affects all on screen.

Enemies are okay, some are melee, others are shooters so up/down avoidance is key. Then there are the bosses, each of which requires a different tactic. You actually have three "lives", and each "live" can take multiple hits depending on severity, but you're hardly indestructible. Which is where the "steaks" come in. Grab one and you'll heal by a bit.

The graphics are okay, not too fancy, but not too shabby, average to above average for 2D work. Music... didn't bother to listen. With three difficulty levels, I guess it should last button pushers a while. However, I have ran into a bug where upon starting level 4 the phone simply resets itself. So I can't continue. However, I imagine the rest of the game can't be that different.

So, GL:Vikings is a beat-em-up game that doesn't break too much ground. While it's competent, it's just that, and no more.

Overall rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: decent 2D beat-em-up with "moves" and such, simple controls
Cons: nothing innovative here, or at least tries to be different

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KMGR of "Up! The Mobile Game"

The DHL Balloon is the world's largest tethere...Image via Wikipedia

The movie tie in for the CGI movie is interesting. You play both Carl and the scout as you try to get your house over a series of dangerous terrain, using a bit of physics. The unique controls are interesting, but some sections are way too hard.

The controls are a bit weird. Basically, Carl and Scout are "dragging" the house, which is floating via balloons. However, you can "yank" on the house, which brings it down, then when it pops back up again, it can drag the two up into the air (combine with the "jump" mentioned below), and if there's an updraft, they can float for a little bit, perfect when crossing dangerous terrain. They can also "jump", which also gets them across dangerous terrain. Left and right, are obvious.

There's also house flying segment, where no dragging is needed... Hit OK to lift the house and avoid bad things (birds, backdraft) while bump into good things (updrafts, balloon refills).

The game has two modes, the adventure more, where you get to take the house across multiple levels of alternate house flying and house dragging, or the Wilderness mode, which is mainly house dragging, but with no time counter, and the objective is the collect the "badges" throughout the level.

Somehow the house dragging is way more difficult or I just haven't gotten the "hang" of it. I got to a level where I can't seem to pass after trying dozens of times. There are these "deep ravines" that if you fall into, you are TOAST. Then you have to cross these "barbed ground", all without a lot of updraft to help you jump across. Then more ravines. Enough said. And the levels are long enough so that if you fial near the end you get to redo the level all over again.

Due to the unevendifficulty curve, and the 2D nature of this game, I can only give it a 6.5 otu of 10.

Overall rating: 6.5 out of 10
Pros: controsl are kinda fun, and unique and bloodless
Cons: way too difficult after a variety of easy levels

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KMGR of "Flatout"

Flatout Windows box artImage via Wikipedia

Flatout is probably the game that launched the "race and wreck" genre, that later includes the Burnout series. Now that it's finally made its way to mobile, does the mobile retain the flavor? Sort of. However, the weak AI means the game isn't really that good.

Flatout mobile is a 2D racing game more in the spirit of "Sprint". You drive one of 5 vehicles (only 2 available at first, rest are unlocks) on a variety of surfaces, could be snow, dirt, or even tarmac, or combinations thereof. The "fun" part is you get "nitro charge" by bumping into things, preferably other cars, but obstacles and road barriers will do. You can even cut through the trees if you think that'll work. Also, there are obstacles like tires, logs, and such in the middle of roads and running into them will slow you down, which is bad, of course.

The game has 24 tracks, dividied into 3 "cups", bronze, silver, and gold, in order of increasing difficulty. The problem is, even at the gold cup, the game isn't that difficult. You need to place top 3 out of 4 to advance, but out of 24 races I placed first in all except 2 races, and none I had to retry, really. The game's AI seems to be a bit too... tame.

Your car is NOT indestructible, however. Hit too many road barriers, and your top speed goes down, and flames start coming out of the engine. However, the car is so tiny on screen, it's hard to tell if that's really a fire or just a couple orange and red dots, which leads up to the second problem... size. You see, there are 3D racing games for mobile on the market, and I've reviewed them before. So this conservative 2D title just isn't very... well, innovative. While the 2D graphics are impressive, it's hard to tell contours on the ground (inclines and declines) with an isometric view, and that makes driving harder than it should be.

What's more the controls are, well, not that good. Most games acknowledge the QWERTY keyboard on my LG enV by doing 2 control crosses... The cursor keys, and the 2QWES cross. This game only accepts control from cursor keys, so you can't use 2 fingers to steer, only one, and that's annoying. What's more the vehicle refuse to move in a straight line. You thought you lined it up straight, but after a second or two it starts going left or right, and you have to input some correction. This means you're always turning left or right, and that gets annoying when you just want it to go STRAIGHT.

At least the courses are colorful and interesting, especially the last one, where you have to do FOUR cloverleaves each lap for SIX LAPS. There are no explanation or graphs about what's different with the vehicles. So once you got all 24 races, that's pretty much it.

All in all, FLATOUT is an also-ran that tries to tie into the franchise name, but in this case, I have to say it's a failure, due to very weak AI and lousy controls.

Overall rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: some feeling of Flatout series, good tracks, decent isometric graphics
Cons: 2D game with little imagination, missing the "charm" of Flatout, weak AI

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KMGR of "Battleship PrizePlay"

Image representing PrizePlay as depicted in Cr...Image via CrunchBase

PrizePlay games lets you win "tokens" for more plays, and possibly prizes. The problem is, in trying to fit in the game, they seem to have lost the meaning of the game.

You see, you have to pay "tokens" for each play, and the game is Battleship, where you lob shots at the enemy map, trying to hit ships. However, they have to throw in trivia, which has nothing to with Battleship at all. It's like playing trivia pursuit with no category limit. For every question you get right, you get to fire a shot. Miss three questions, and your game ends. The objective, is to kill ship(s) before you run out of misses. That'll get you a token and if you get more, prizes.

Verizon's free trial gives you 3 free tokens to try. Not being that good in trivia, that lasted me less than five minutes. And I managed to get ONE ship.

So all I can say about Battleships PrizePlay is it's not that much fun, unless you enjoy mixing trivia pursuit (tm) with your Battleship (tm) play. Save your money and time.

Overall rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: trivia and battleship is an interesting combo
Cons: pay per play and promise of prizes doesn't make up for lack of actual "game"

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July previews!

Cash CabImage via Wikipedia

Battleships PrizePlay -- play for prizes is a good hook, but can you really win something in this game? And it is any fun? (Puzzle/Trivia)

Up (mobile game) -- Up the movie is great. But is Up the game any good? (Action)

Great Legends: Vikings -- is the game all bark and no bite, or will you truly feel like a plundering Viking (Beat-em-up)

Verizon Racing Championship -- race cars around 26 tracks? Where have we seen this before? (Racing)

Flatout -- the game practically started the crash-racing genre on the PC, but is it any fun on a mobile? (Racing)

Cash Cab -- the Discovery channel show gets a mobile game. Is it fun, or is an also-ran? (Trivia)

Find out soon, as the reviews for these games are coming very soon!

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KMGR of Sims 3 (mobile)

Day 162 - Sims!Image by brianjmatis via Flickr

Sims 3 for mobile is fun game by itself. It is only isometric, but it seems to have captured the Sims 3 spirit. You'll have a lot of interaction with other sims, and lots of minigames, from fishing to cooking to repairing. It's a lot of things to do, but then, that's life, isn't it?

Basically, you get to pick your avatar, with customization of hair, skin color, shirt, pants, and so on. Then you get to pick 5 traits, which will affect your interaction with the other sims. Once you're in the game, you have a house with some furniture, then randomly you'll get "wants", such as meet someone, fish, and so on. You can actually have up to three avatars (different everything) and they live independent lives.

As in all sims games, you have individual needs, like food, clean, bathroom, social, fun, and so on. Food is from fridge or oven, clean is from shower, and social is from other relationships. You get the idea. As time go on these parameters will fall, and you need to recharge them periodically with the proper activities.

You will also need a job, as you only have X amount of standing money, and you do eat quite a bit. Snacks are expensive, so sooner you get an oven and learn to cook the better. And in this game, you get 'skills' such as cooking and fishing and repairing by "doing", which means get the right tools, go to the right location(s), and play the minigames.

There are quite a few jobs in town. One at city hall, one at the cafe, and so on. Each develope different skills, and have different perks, different schedules, and so on. Don't be late, or you'll get fired!

As you walk about town, you will meet a lot of other inhabitants, and you can develop friendships or even more serious relations with most of the inhabitants. Depending on their traits and your traits different conversation techniques may be needed. Some prefer pointless chat, while others may prefer jokes, yet others may prefer planting or fishing talk, and so on. As you talk, you may get referals and additional "quests" such as "bring me a fish and I'll give you $50" and so on.

Interaction is not done once you're back at your house. You can call people on the phone and invite them over as in previous Sims games, and further interact with them, or just chat on the phone. Invite several people over and have a party, or just your "mate" over for a quiet cozy night, it's all up to you.

The problem with the game is you can only "lock" 4 wants at once, and most of them you can't act on at the beginning. Income level is low and consumption of food is high ($10 per SNACK? Come on!) so you will have to find a job very soon, and work for your money, and learn to cook pretty soon (or learn to fish, and sell the fish, but that means you need to buy fishing kit from the "hobby store") and lots more. Repair something means repair kit... you get the idea. But then, money ain't ever free, right?

Sims 3 mobile is a proper Sims game, and there are lots of things to do in this game. The wants can be ignored and they will expire of ignored for a while. Each day you have to manage your needs and wants, and balance them. And that is the whole point of the Sims 3, isn't it?

Overall rating: 8.5 out of 10 (hall of fame!)
Pros: Got the Sims vibe, outside-house interactions, more minigames and activities
Cons: A lot of wants can't be acted upon initially, money is tight in the game

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KMGR of "Metal Gear Acid"

From top to bottom, Big Boss, Liquid Snake and...Image via Wikipedia

Metal Gear Acid is a weird game... It features Snake as normal, as it IS a Metal Gear game, but the game mechanics is TURN-based. Yes, you read right... turn-based, and is based on a deck of cards. Yes, cards. However, it does work, and the result is a turn-based tactical stealth game that is, well, very interesting.

At the beginning of the story, terrorists have hijacked a plane with some very important VIPs. They demand release of a secret project at a base nobody knew existed. Snake has been ordered to infiltrate the base that allegedly house this project and figure out what's going on.

Throughout the game, Snake will chat with his "handler" at regular trigger points to further expand the plot. I haven't gotten too far into the story (first 3 chapters) so I can't tell you too mcuh about it, but I expect the normal twists and turns.

You can choose to do the tutorial to familiarize yourself with the game concepts, and it's a novel one. Each turn has four phases... Your phase 1 and 2, then enemy phase 1 and 2. You have a deck of 30 cards. Inside are weapons, health / armor and such, special skills, and other items. Each card has a movement value. You start with 6 cards out of a deck of 30, randomly drawn. You play 1 card per phase. At the beginning of next turn, you drawn enough to go back to 6 cards, and the process repeats. If you ran out of cards, the deck is reshuffled and the process repeats.

(There are additional cards scattered throughout the level you can go after if you wish to)

Each card can be either used for its own purpose, or movement. Some "equipment" cards can be placed in the 2 equipment slots for later use. As the cards you draw are random, you must remain flexible with your plans. However, your "deck" remains fixed.

For example, say you want to move, then shoot the camera with your silenced pistol. You pick a card you don't really need to use its movement value (about 3, which means Snake can move 3 squares) as phase 1. Then in phase two, you use the Pistol-SD card, select a target (the camera), and choose "use" instead of "move", and you'll pop the camera. This of course assume you are in range, and the camera is within your line of sight.

And there are lots of options. You can change facing between phases. You can face the wall then flatten, which means you will automatically turn 180 and flatten against the wall, making you almost invisible. While flattened, you can "knock", which is a standard distraction ploy. Nearby guard will investigate, and you can use that momentary distraction to move past him. You can also crawl instead of regular "walk".

How you get through the level is up to you, but basically, the usual objective is to retrieve either a key or some sort of info, and make it to the exit square without attracting too much attention (none is preferred).

In your way are human guards, cameras, robot guard dogs, and more. Cameras can be shot. Guards can be killed or distracted. Robot guard dog can be avoided or fed a chaff grenade (which stuns it for 1 turn). There are nastier bad guys later. To plan your route, you can engage "camera mode", which shows you the viewing area of each and every camera or guard on the level. Again, avoid them if you can, quietly dispose of them if you can't.

On some levels, you can use a disguise, such as a box, which obviously, don't move under its own power. So as long as no guard or camera see your box move, they will ignore it.

All in all, Metal Gear Acid is a weird game. It manages to retain the flavor of Metal Gear series, but made it turn-based with a deck of cards serving as play mechanism. It takes a bit of getting used to, but the end result is one fun game that's almost perfectly suited for mobile market.

Score: 7.5 out of 10
Pros: still Snake and Metal Gear stuff
Cons: card-based combat resolution and play mechanism takes a bit of getting used to, turn-based may be too slow for some

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