iPhone Life magazine

Eric Pankoke has been a gamer for more than 20 years. He began with arcade games, moving to consoles and eventually handhelds and Pocket PCs. Now he spends most of his time on one of his iOS devices. Eric has written more than 700 gaming reviews, which have appeared on a number of gaming websites as well as several issues of both Smartphone & Pocket PC and iPhone Life magazines. He regularly contributes to iphonelife.com and TouchMyApps. Ultimately he hopes to eventually develop games himself for whatever the hot mobile device is when he finally gets moving.

The Lord of the Roads: Oldies Can Still Be Goodies

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One thing I love about virtual shelves like the App Store is that you can often find items years after they have been released. When they’re good, that’s always a bonus. I wrote this review more than a year and a half ago, but I hate wasting things, so I figured I’d go ahead and publish it despite the age. The Lord of the Roads ($0.99) is still available on the App Store; and when I fired it up again, just to be sure that I wasn’t overinflating things, it turned out the game is still just as fun as it was back then. Plus it runs quite well on my iPod Touch 4. If you don’t get the significance of that, you’ve obviously never had the “privilege” of owning an iPod Touch 4.



Tales of the Sanctuary: Chapter 1 Won't Make The Big Players Sweat

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With G5 and Big Fish Games on the iOS scene there is certainly no shortage of quality hidden-object and adventure games for your Apple-centric gadgets. With all the AAA titles available, though, it does make it a lot harder for the small developer to compete. Tales Of the Sanctuary: Chapter 1 ($0.99) makes an admirable attempt at doing something different, and I will admit to gleaning an odd sense of enjoyment from the game. In the end though, the game felt a bit too piecemeal for me. A bit more coherence would have gone a long way with this tale.



Lost Echo: Engaging Story But Needs More Interaction

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When I first played Lost Echo ($2.99) I got to the trigger event that causes everything else to unfold and while the game seemed like it had a lot of potential it didn’t really hook me. Now that I’ve revisited the game several months later I’ve realized that it’s actually a really interesting interactive story. Much like a chapter of the Twilight Zone mythos, this sci-fi romp manages to provide more adult-oriented themes à la Cognition: Episode 1 or Yesterday. I think it has a lot to offer adventure game fans, though it might not be as “hands on” as one might like.



Pet Zoometery: Where Animals Are Dying To Get In

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I feel I should state from the beginning that I am not a fan of “free-to-play” games (F2P) that are driven by in-app purchases (IAP). Some day I might just write an article about that, but for now let’s just say that I don’t really like the concept of continually paying for one game (I’m not a fan of massively multi-player online games [MMOs] for the same reason). Anyway, despite those feelings I decided to spend some time with Pet Zoometery, and while there are some features about the game that I do enjoy, in the end it feels just like any other F2P: it’s fun for a while, but ultimately gets tedious and somewhat stale.



Cognition Episode 1: More Than The Eye Can See

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Cognition Episode 1 ($3.99)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Back when graphics were first starting to take shape for computer games, Sierra set the standard for adventures with titles like King’s Quest and Leisure Suit Larry. The fact that you could actually see your character follow your commands along with the immense amount of dialog made the experience feel as much like an interactive movie as anything. Phoenix Online Studios clearly understands what it takes to make this style of game, and as much as I loved the old Sierra games, I’d say the Cognition series kicks things up a notch or two. More realistic characters, adult subject matter (in a mature way, not like Leisure Suit Larry), and a focus on exploration and discovery (instead of finding an obscure key in a tree to unlock some mystic chest) give Cognition Episode 1 more of a Law & Order bent than anything. It’s just too bad this intriguing story telling couldn’t have come with a better interface wrapped around it.



City Birds: Farm Livin' Is The Life For Me (Game Review)

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City Birds (free from $0.99, Nov. 27-29)

3.5/5 stars

Matching fans are in for a treat should they decide to take City Birds for a spin. This game is pure casual action fun that’s not quite like anything I’ve played before on my iPad, and given the amount of games I have played, that says quite a bit. It’s easy to learn and quickly gets addictive. The problem is that once you’ve unlocked all the birds and completed all the challenges, which sadly doesn’t take as long as one would like, the game grows kind of stale. Hopefully updates that are in the works will address this issue so that this original game can remain fresh to its players for quite some time.



The Rats Online: Stuffin' And Lootin' Globally (Review)

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I used to start out just about every review of an online game making some sort of comment about how I don’t really like online games. I'm beginning to think that’s not really the case. What I don’t like are games where if you’re not in the “elite” you’re pretty much dead when you step out on the battlefield. I also don’t care for games where people pretty much expect you to chat or make the game as much about taunting as actually playing. Thankfully The Rats Online (free with IAP) handles all of these things in just the right manner. Its simple nature makes it easy to get into, and the nicely organized list of folks you need to exact revenge on makes it worth coming back in periodically to see how things are going.



Angry Birds Star Wars II: Angry Birds in a Galaxy Far, Far Away (Review)

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I’ve been a fan of Star Wars since before a vast majority of hardcore iOS players were born. And as much as I hate to admit it, I was sucked into the Angry Birds phenomenon just like so many other players. When the first Angry Birds Star Wars game was released, however, I was curious but also dumbfounded. Was Rovio that needy to expand the franchise—and for that matter, was LucasArts so desperate for some name recognition in the mobile world? I basically ignored the first installment; but when I saw they had released Angry Birds Star Wars II ($0.99), I decided it was time to see what the appeal was. In some ways I actually admire how they’ve melded together the two franchises. Overall though, I’m not finding the experience quite as entertaining as the original game that started it all. At least they were kind enough to include a playable Yoda character in the mix.



Brightstone Mysteries: Paranormal Hotel HD Takes Checking Out To A Whole New Level

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Paranormal Hotel HD (Free, $6.99 to unlock full game) is yet another G5 adventure game. Like many of the newer releases, it gravitates towards the actual adventure side of things with few mini-games and no hidden object scenes. The story is captivating, but the game play isn’t quite as strong as what I’ve come to expect from G5’s adventure offerings. There seems to be a lot of back and forth and dialogs with not so much puzzle solving in between. It still keeps me wanting to play, but more because I’m curious about what’s going to happen rather than looking forward to the next set of puzzles to solve.



My Singing Monsters: Muppets for a New Generation

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I am not a huge fan of in-app-purchase (IAP) driven games, though that seems to be the way that even the big developers are going these days. A little over a year ago Big Blue Bubble released one called My Singing Monsters (Free), and despite my disdain for the freemium model I decided to give it a shot anyway. It’s one of the few such games that remain on my device to this day. I don’t spend hours a day with it simply because I don’t want to fall into the trap of dishing out more dough through IAP than I would if I went and bought a console game, for example, but I still enjoy pulling it up every once in a while and seeing how my monsters are doing. Besides, how could you not enjoy a group of fun-loving, goofy creatures that like to sing? It worked for the Muppets, after all…



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