Week in Mobile: Battle Dungeon: Risen, The Other Brothers, and Slayin
Every Saturday here on GameZone, we’ll feature a handful of new titles released for iOS/Android and update you on the biggest news we covered that week.
Previously, we rolled out a couple mobile-related previews from PAX East. This week, we’re facing down hordes of magical enemies, meeting Mario and Luigi’s other brothers (cousins, maybe?), and getting our quest on.
Battle Dungeon: Risen
The game that disappeared from the App Store because of severe piracy problems is back — but now, the renamed Battle Dungeon: Risen is a single-player affair only. The turn-based strategy title no longer includes asynchronous multiplayer, which is what lured so many illegitimate players. They overloaded the servers and forced the developer to take the game offline.
Hunted Cow Studios has since added 12 solo missions and dropped the price to a slightly more attractive $1.99 (it was $3 before). The multiplayer might have added a critical element to the game’s appeal, but Battle Dungeon manages to survive without it. Risen offers a rewarding challenge for those who want a fantasy role-playing-esque tactical experience.
Winning scenarios requires a bit of grinding, but thankfully the soldiers you recruit and put into action gain experience that sticks regardless of who triumphs or if the battle ends early (in case you opt out of a losing situation). Players can then redeem those points for valuable stat upgrades and purchase new level-based equipment with money earned from treasure chests and victories. It feels good to reenter a match with stronger characters that you’ve formed an attachment to. Hiring dozens of soldiers isn’t necessary, but it is an option for those who wish to replay with different character classes or achieve a higher score.
Adding better equipment and investing in attributes raises a character’s “weight,” which effectively lowers a multiplier that increases overall score. Bringing more soldiers onto the field lowers this number further. This aspect won’t deter casual players, but true strategy enthusiasts might find the system particularly compelling.
Risen looks nice and plays well, and users can pinch the screen to zoom in and out anytime. However, sometimes the touch controls for selecting actions or characters can be finicky — not in a way that breaks the game or leads to unwanted moves, but it does slow down the already relaxed pace even more. Risen would benefit from additional enemy variety, and missions later on can increase dramatically in difficulty. At least they dole out experience appropriately enough for players to catch up.
Despite these minor setbacks, Risen is worth both the price and time commitment.
The Other Brothers
Tobgame draws obvious influence from the Super Mario Bros. series with certain aspects, like the princess in need of rescuing and other nods, like underwater levels and huge pipes. Mostly, though, The Other Brothers sets the brothers (whatever their names are) on a new adventure. Despite the colorful pixelated look, it presents a grittier view of the world. Joe, the starter character (Jim unlocks when players earn six stars), collects oil cans for points and catches pigeons to accumulate a health reserve. Guard dogs attack, and mobsters and FBI agents shoot liberally. Joe can retaliate by jumping on their heads, tossing wrenches (a limited-time power-up), or running away, but only pockets of the environment serve as safe territory.
The goal is to find the level exit, so players can choose to zip through or scour every inch. Surviving is tough and requires a lot of skill and perseverance; seeking out the exit takes considerable effort as levels are open-ended with plenty of nooks and crannies to explore.
Tobgame is planning other platform releases (Android/Ouya, PC, and Mac), but right now, the iOS version costs a little over $1. It contains no in-app purchases, and future episodes will be available for free. This installment features a nice helping of levels and boss fights as it is. With laser-shooting robots and giant sewer rats, among other foes, The Other Brothers successfully separates itself from its classic roots.
The only trouble with the game’s difficulty is the virtual D-pad, which constantly slips and moves with the player’s thumb. It’s hard to stay aligned with the directional placement. This becomes a huge source of frustration. (Note: Tobgame is reportedly planning an update “soon” that adds a fixed D-pad as an option, which should lessen the problem.)
Sometimes all gamers want is the ability to play on without losing interest. For role-playing fanatics, Slayin (99 cents) — by developer Pixel Licker and publisher FDG Entertainment — is an endless retro-style, sword-and-sorcery adventure.
Controls are very simple: While the character autoruns on a single horizontal plane, players steer him left or right using a large, stable D-pad down in the bottom half of the screen. The only other (giant) button makes him jump. (I did encounter a little wonkiness with this input that, so hopefully Tobgame tweaks it in an update.)
The first playable character, a knight, fights enemies by jutting out his sword and running headlong into them, so you don’t have to manually make him attack. Slayin’s action looks hectic (and does get increasingly harder), but this play scheme enables players to focus on what matters: defeating hordes of foes and then, once the stage clears, a boss.
Different character classes unlock with the Fame Points you earn after you die, but you’ll need a lot of them to purchase new recruits in the tavern. Each one features a unique ability and strengths; the Wizard, for example, turns into a tornado to combat enemies, and she’s vulnerable in human form.
In addition, frequent level-ups and visits with a traveling shopkeeper break up play and keep you going strong.
For those who have played the Flash and PC versions, Slayin on iOS comes with additions like Boss Rush, Advanced mode, a new chiptune soundtrack by Matt "Norrin Radd" Creamer (who worked on Retro City Rampage), and a leaderboard graveyard where you can decorate your fallen heroes’ tombstones.
You'll probably visit it often. Slayin is a fun, highly replayable game.
These games were reviewed on an iPad Mini.
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