Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Which way is up?

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

Yet it moves is briefly available free, a month after its debut on the App Store.

Originally titled “And Yet It Moves”, a nod to a quote from Galileo, it was released in 2009 for PC, Mac and Linux and follows a character navigating through a series of stylised worlds created from ripped paper.

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The game’s central mechanic is a literal twist on conventional platforming games – the player rotates the entire world, shifting the direction of gravity. Walls become ceilings, ceilings become floors, and new routes are suddenly accessible. Some puzzles have the kind of brain-melting impact familiar to fans of Portal, especially when it starts playing tricks with momentum.

The shift to touch screen controls has been largely successful, although it takes a little getting used to.

Grab it quickly while it’s free, or if you’re late reading this article, buy it anyway and reward the developers for their hard work!

Surf the snow and alarm a llama

Saturday, February 21st, 2015

As a former Ski Safari addict, I found Alto’s Adventure, an artistic reimagining of the endless skier concept hard to resist.

The graphics are gorgeous, stylish lightly-shaded landscapes that look like paper cutouts form the backdrop to your gentle glide down the slopes herding llamas*.

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There are plenty of subtle touches ; the llamas’ graceful gait and endearing sledging** on steeper slopes, a day and cycle that regularly refreshes the vistas and the occasional storm make the game easy to return to.

Be warned that it’s a slow builder and can initially feel underwhelming. Stick with it though, and you’ll soon find its secrets revealing themselves as you keep returning for “just one more go.”

* I have to be honest, I’m not sure if llamas are usually rounded up by skiers, but somehow I don’t think this was ever intended to be a documentary.

** Again, not a documentary.

Odd Bot Out

Saturday, February 21st, 2015

Odd Bot Out is a physics-based puzzler from Swedish developer Martin Magni. The goal is to guide your hapless robot companion over assorted blocks and slopes to an exit on the right of the screen.

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The app’s greatest strength is its physics engine, which is extremely intuitive, flexible and believable. Blocks can be stacked, pushed over or joined together with a satisfying click, switches can be wired to motors to build levers and crude vehicles. Above all, the physics makes the robot all the more real and engaging ; its attempts to regain its balance give it the air of a drunk puppy trying to balance on a beach ball, and the effect is utterly charming.

After playing through the first forty levels, it feels to me that there’s much greater potential to be tapped here. That’s saying something when the app presently has exclusively 5 star reviews on the UK app store. Although it’s incredibly impressive that Odd Bot Out was created by a single developer, I could imagine that a set of levels from an experienced level designer with a fresh perspective would make a worthwhile in-app purchase that would greatly boost the app’s longevity.

The Room

Saturday, October 13th, 2012

The Room, from Fireproof Games, may be one of the most well thought out apps I’ve yet encountered on the iPad. Playing out through an enigmatic series of puzzles within puzzles, every stage has been polished to perfection.

The easiest way to describe this title is “Myst in a box”, although this doesn’t quite do it justice. The influence of Myst seems visible throughout, from the beautifully textured surfaces and the subtle atmospheric soundtrack to the mysterious handwritten notes scattered throughout, hinting at the arcane science of game’s universe.

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Nihilumbra

Monday, September 17th, 2012

With so many television channels in the United Kingdom now dedicated purely to childrens’ viewing, it’s surprising to remember that back in the 1970s, cartoons on TV were strictly rationed. Typically there would be an occasional episode of Tom and Jerry, or if you were lucky, Scooby Doo. Once in a while, there would be very strange Czech cartoons depicting melancholy, dream like worlds which followed their own bizarre logic. Nihilumbra feels like being immersed in one of those cartoons.

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Osmos

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Osmos has the most perfect blend of visuals, music and gameplay that I’ve come across so far, and is one of the best examples of a game as an art form that I can think of.  Although not originally an iOS title, it works so well with a touch screen that it’s hard to imagine playing it on another platform.

When people talk about games as an art form, there can be a knee jerk reaction from hard core gamers as they worry they’ll have to float through a forest lighting fragments of poems with a magic twig*. Osmos is not that kind of game.

It stands up on gameplay alone. Like many of the best iOS games, it has a very simple, mathematically balanced mechanic which allows a great deal of subtlety and nuance from a single touch.

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Remember Snow

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Remember Snow was released in 2009 and was one of the first interactive “art for art’s sake” apps that I purchased from the App Store. Perhaps best described as a diversion, it is a simple meditative experience akin to playing with a snow globe or wind chimes. As the user’s finger moves around the screen, pale blurry shapes swirl around, and quiet music box sounds are triggered at random. The faster the user moves, the faster the shapes move, and the more notes are played. When the user shakes the screen, the images are thrown into disarray and eventually settle.

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Windosill

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Sometimes the journey is more important than the destination. That’s a concept that many games seem to lose sight of, but one which Windosill embraces wholeheartedly.

Starting in darkness, Windosill takes the user through a succession of interactive scenes, each containing some challenge that must be explored before the user can move on to the next one. Although the graphics often have a childish theme – occasionally reminiscent of Dr. Seuss – this is an app that has as much appeal to adults as children, and possibly more. I was surprised to watch my partner, who has little patience for computer games, lose herself completely in the app for well over an hour, only stopping when she had completed every scene.

Terms like ‘game’ and ‘puzzle’ don’t quite apply here, and the focus has been primarily on feel. Elements can be touched, dragged, pushed and prodded and all respond beautifully and dynamically. Great care has obviously been taken to provide fluid behaviour for every object and it pays off; the user is left with a strong sense of a living, physical world.

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iOrnament

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

I’m not an artist – I can barely pick up a paintbrush without accidentally stabbing myself in the eye – so I’ve been greatly surprised by the amount of time I’ve spent creating patterns and textures with iOrnament.

The app provides a minimal set of drawing tools – a simple colour palette, with controls for brightness, saturation and blurring – but what distinguishes it from other packages is its use of symmetry. Every mark you make is endlessly reflected across the page, creating vast kaleidoscope patterns.

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FLOW: qin

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

FLOW: qin is an interactive generative music app which assembles an ever changing soundtrack from a collection of oriental stringed instrument samples. At time of writing, it is free on the App Store.

As I discovered following the release of Bloom, the greatest resistance to artistic music apps often comes from musicians. Non-musicians have little trouble surrendering to an app’s whims, whereas those used to being in complete control of an instrument can struggle with the idea of having to let go and work within an app’s constraints.

FLOW: qin, a release from the very early days of the App Store, meets this problem head on by providing one of the most unashamedly eccentric interfaces I’ve come across. While it enables the user to produce fascinating generative music, it relies heavily on serendipity, and it would be impossible to use the app to create a specific, planned out piece of music.

The user is initially presented with a blank but dirty sheet of parchment with three markers or ‘moments’ slowly progressing across it. Tapping on the screen will reveal one of three lanes of five blank boxes, and each time the moment encounters a blank box, a random sample is triggered and the box is filled with a coloured chinese tile. Tapping on a sample as it plays locks it into place, causing it to be triggered every time a moment subsequently passes over it.

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