Week in Mobile: Jane Wilde, Combo Crew, and Dead Ahead
Every Saturday here on GameZone, we’ll review a handful of new titles released for iOS and Android and update you on the biggest news we covered.
There’s something about the Wild West that brings to mind not only saloons and horses but also werewolves and vampires, especially if you’re a fan of comic books like Jonah Hex or any other Western-meets-supernatural series. Even the game Red Dead Redemption explored the darker side of the prairie in the expansion Undead Nightmare.
Now developer Level Bit (Rise to Fame) has made a side-scrolling shooter with these very themes, putting the firepower and silver bullets in the hands of a busty female gunslinger.
Jane Wilde (free for iOS) presents a simple story through comic book-esque cutscenes with sound, but the real show of animation happens in-game, when Jane is blasting vampires, zombies, bats, and plenty more monsters left and right. The backgrounds don’t change from level to level, but they do from “world” to world, like when Jane hops from the graveyard to a train. Players can collect coins and power-ups during each stretch, or they can use the currency to purchase more ammo, new weapons, permanent abilities (which drop as boosts during play), and even saucy outfits — like a nurse’s costume or even a tribute to the recent Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained. These, of course, don’t do much justice to the advancement of female characters in video games, but what can you do.
Almost every level brings in a new enemy type, from skeletons that chuck their heads up in the air — which you can kick into hordes if you avoid the impact — and dogs that carry dynamite, which can be turned against baddies (both are two of my favorites). These designs are creative and make the game fun to play. Even better is when you start packing enough heat to shoulder several weapons. The reliable controls make it easy to swipe between guns or press a button to switch quickly, and knowing when to whip out each one does wonders for diversifying gameplay.
In-app purchases (IAP) don’t feel necessary to progression — Jane Wilde offers players plenty of ways to earn extra coins, such as by sharing achievements on Facebook and watching promotional videos. The only real pain is dealing with ads, which pop up once after every level, just as you return to the in-game shop.
But as well-made as Jane Wilde is, it feels tedious. At its core is another shooter that suffers from a repetitious style even with all the little variations that give it depth. It’s worth a download, though, for sure.
Fighting games are known for quick combos and smooth animation; brawlers are all about punching and kicking the daylights out of everyone around you. They’re complementary genres. But can you make a brawler that feels like a fighting game and make it work well on mobile devices? Why yes — yes, you can.
It’s called Combo Crew ($1.99 for iOS and Android) the latest release from developer The Game Bakers (Squids). It’s a beautifully animated 2D/3D game where you fight your way through rounds of enemies in a tower, throwing down with thugs and bosses alike. It takes the fast pace and mechanics of a fighting game and applies them to a brawler where points and reflexes matter in equal measure. And it does all this with controls designed with mobile in mind.
Boy, is it fun. The game explains the rules level by level, but there isn’t a ton to remember — yet its depth exceeds these inputs. Swiping an enemy makes the character attack; holding the swipe charges up a more powerful move so you can break his guard. Tapping anywhere on the screen counters, and the game uses a very clear system of red, yellow, and green exclamation marks above enemies’ heads to indicate when they’re about to attack and whether or not you’re successfully countering (yellow means you will once your current move completes, and green means you’re good to go).
Combos work by swiping two fingers across the screen (and you can change which enemy you’re targeting by tapping on the one you want) — either up, down, left, and right. Players assign four different combos to these directions from a list, where they can see the moves in action.
The result is fluid butt-kicking, and the variety of enemies onscreen ensures that you’ll pay attention for every televised sign of when an enemy is about to attack or wail on you with force (some moves require a faster counter than others, so it helps to watch for these visual cues). The game even throws in awesome slow-motion finishers and a super meter that, when fully charged, lets you swipe away at enemies, who temporarily freeze while you load up as many attacks as possible within the time limit.
Gaining a high enough score for each round awards you a gold medal and a game controller — a special kind of currency that unlocks new combos and new fighters (of which there are a couple more than the starter two).
You also earn coins during fights, which you can use to purchase one-time boosters or always-active perks that apply to every fighter. Friends can even lend a hand to help you conquer endless waves in Combo Crew mode. No IAP are involved.
Endless runners are so common on the app stores that they require an exterminator to weed through the good and the bad. And zombie games are just as prevalent. So what about a game that combines both: zombies and endless play? Well, it gets points for style and substance, that’s for sure.
The title is Mobirate’s (Parking Mania, Jelly Jumpers) Dead Ahead (free for iOS), a pixelated adventure with gloomy sounds and visuals where you ride down a road on a motorbike in a zombie apocalypse. The goal is simple: survive as long as you can while picking off zombies and super-monstrous undead.
Players can perform wheelies to gain speed and outrun stragglers — who are rather quick and can catch up to you, sending you flying off your motorcycle and face-first into the pavement — but that increases the risk of running smack into an obstacle, like a car or wall, and dying anyway. You can shoot them from behind, but then you have to wait until a meter fills to reload your gun. On the other hand, you’re immune to the zombies in front of you, which you can easily trample, but hitting them slows you down considerably and makes you more vulnerable to the threats chasing you.
The overall package is a great combination of dangers that leads to some challenging and intense gameplay, and it’s definitely worth your time. Finishing a run brings up a screen that displays stats like distance traveled, total kills, best combo, highest speed, time, and rewards. You can also collect boosts on the road — like nitro and infinite ammo, for example — which may be a better investment than purchasing the pricey boosts from the in-game store. You’ll definitely want to save your coins for bike upgrades and new vehicles, which handle better in areas like speed and controls, or new weapons, which can deal more damage and hold more ammo before a reload. New locations (with different difficulties) unlock as you complete in-game objectives and go up in rank.
A payment of $1.99 will remove the rather annoying ads, which appear relentlessly and are slow to dismiss, and net you a great bike or new character as an added bonus.
I really like the profile card, as well, which shows your rank, a portrait of your biker, and other record details.
Dead Ahead doesn’t exactly do anything new for the genre, but it looks, sounds, and generally plays great. My only gripe is that the steering could use some refininement — too often it sticks as you slide your finger up and down on the screen, and the option for virtual buttons is too slippery. Otherwise, it’s zombie heaven — or hell.
These games were reviewed on an iPad Mini.
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