Week in Mobile: Letter Rush, Journey into Hell, and aliens vs. birds
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.
Last time, we talked about one game, Battle Dungeon, coming back to the App Store after serious piracy issues.
Now, Sonic dashes onto iOS, another studio shutters, and we share good news for Alien vs. Predator fans (see our news recap below).
We also put our wordsmith skills in overdrive, smacked some aliens around, and fought demons on a train.
If you consider yourself a connoisseur of word games, then give Proletariat’s first title for iOS a look.
Letter Rush comes from ex-senior members of the defunct Zynga Boston, the same team that made Indiana Jones Adventure World before the office closed in October of last year. Letter Rush merges typical wordplay (think Letterpress and its arrangement of single-letter tiles and clean, sleek interface) with a breed of rhythm game. No, you won’t have to tap out words to a thumping beat, but as they move across the screen from right to left, players must connect adjacent tiles to spell them before they break through the wall.
Fail to write out a word in time, and it will disappear, shattering the wall and leaving you vulnerable to a game over if any other moving word hits the now-exposed edge of the screen (imagine words moving in reverse across lines of a music chart). Players can purchase power-ups with in-game currency to build extra defense, slow down the pace, or more, but that won’t do much good if a word strikes a weak spot. Placing power-ups on each level might help, but that costs a steep price, and you lose all unused items when the game ends. Buying only one or two of these consumables might very well be a waste of resources.
Sometimes a wave of words floods the screen, changing the game from a leisurely experience into a test of quickness and survival. Letter Rush features both single-player and multiplayer modes, and if you can actually get a match going (the lobby seems rather empty), the latter is easily the most enjoyable take on the game. Players must work together to protect their defenses while trying to “steal” words by spelling them the fastest. It keeps going until a word hits a break in the wall, like normal.
It’s addictive and catchy, but the biggest obstacle to enjoyment is how you string letters together -- or rather, deactivate them and start again. Doing so is never easy; sometimes, words disappear, leaving you with unwanted highlighted tiles, and the only way to clear them is to double-tap the first letter you touched. This becomes more confusing when you’re unsure of the order or accidentally hit another letter before successfully wiping the board. This burns up time, and time is everything. Letter Rush desperately needs a “clear” button.
IndiePub removed the avian-slinging action from Angry Birds, kept the physics, and added in some very reactive aliens. The experiment resulted in Hungry Gows, which, for as much as it seems to cast off Rovio’s popular game, probably attracts the same sort of audience.
The only instruction players receive is when a new “gow” is introduced. These connect to one another like molecules via some kind of alien glue. Each color of gow has its own personality and makes a cranky noise, which, when several different types get together, creates a cacophony annoying enough to justify turning off the volume completely.
Each member of the family also brings a new game mechanic into play. Some gows, like the green Sticky, adhere to surfaces, affecting the way the giant creature structure moves and reacts. Gows might dangle from others and swing precariously, sometimes hitting (for good or ill) spikes or other obstacles in the sparse environment. BlackBalls must be removed last; red Killers can blow up those they touch; and the yellow Twins are psychically linked, so when you destroy one, all vanish. The goal is to “pop” all the gows on screen while taking all these behavioral quirks into account.
It’s the same line of thinking that you would apply to crashing structures in Angry Birds, only the gows are the planks, stones, debris and the birds at the same time.
[Editor's note: It also looks a bit like World of Goo except you're disassembling structures instead of creating them.]
Hungry Gows (note the title’s resemblance?) contains 60 puzzles across three different worlds. Players can spend $1.99 to access the Gow Facemaker, which captures their mugshot and sticks it on the gows in-game. A payment of $2.99 unlocks all levels, enables the Facemaker, and removes the ads.
My recommendation comes with some hesitancy only because I didn’t care for Angry Birds, but if you’re the kind of player who did, then you might enjoy Hungry Gows, too. It doesn’t have the same charm, but since it’s free, you’re not losing out by trying it.
Journey to Hell
Delivering a quality shooter experience on mobile can be a challenge. It wouldn’t be making headlines if it were easy.
With Journey to Hell, DogBox Studio manages to introduce accessible, easy-to-use controls and balance them against the gameplay, but this is a much slower pace than what you’d see on consoles. And even though few enemies might appear at once, the game still suffers from small jerks and tugs of lag.
Journey to Hell features a cool Western, demonic theme with stylish cutscenes. Players can choose either a gun-slinging male or female hero (named Gabriel or Rachel), collect demon teeth item drops to use as currency for new weapons and abilities, and gain artifacts for upgrades.
Players must first conquer Adventure mode before the others open up (Survival and Treasure Hunt), but progress can slow to a crawl during the more difficult areas. Many levels focus on bosses who are supported by endlessly respawning enemies, and defeating them requires the kind of perseverance and tolerance for mindless grinding that turned me off from Wanderer: War Song (not that this is anywhere near as broken). Chances are you won’t possess the firepower early on to put them down quickly.
Dodge would be a helpful ability if it didn’t require recharging. Also, while players must steady their aim precisely on targets, enemies have a much wider girth in which they can inflict an attack. Even if you back away in time from their swing, the character still takes damage.
The in-level objectives don’t do much to break up the monotonous gameplay, even if the overall feel and look is reminiscent of a console experience. It’s easy to hit the shoot-reticle but accidentally double-tap the screen instead and quick-turn; turning and aiming the camera is sluggish to begin with (even after adjusting the sensitivity, it’s hard to control), and the character can only walk.
At $3.99 (a limited-time price), Journey to Hell is worth checking out, but only for the more patient shooter enthusiasts. (Note that Treasure Hunt mode uses the gyroscope and a first-person viewpoint.) Otherwise, pass. Even the smarter controls fail to compensate for the frustrating gameplay.
These games were reviewed on an iPad Mini.
Double Fine Productions is working on a music game exclusively for Leap Motion software. It’s coming to PC, Mac, and later iOS.
Jones on Fire was made for charity, and now it’s free for iOS.
The latest Humble Bundle is specially geared toward Android games.
Human Element developer Robotoki has introduced The Adventures of Dash for multiple platforms, including iOS, Android, and Ouya.
Sonic Dash is a new endless runner available on the App Store.
We talked to Zen Studios’ creative director Neil Sorens about the Star Wars Pinball collection.