Week in Mobile: Pyramus, Forest of Doom, and Agricola
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 during the week.
Space is awesome. In its cold expanse lurks dangers of all kinds, and spaceship battles are just one of them. What’s not to like about shooting lasers, missiles, and other weaponry at your galactic foes?
Unfortunately, in the case of Pyramus (99 cents now for iOS — $1.99 normal price), quite a lot.
Hunted Cow Studios has released its latest mobile game after Battle Dungeon: Risen, but maybe dungeon-crawling is more the developer’s thing than space-exploring and battling is. Pyramus drops players into two 10-level mission campaigns and puts them in charge of two races: the Korthan and Terran. While each has its own ship types and strategies to employ, there’s not much depth beyond that.
Worse, it’s grueling to play. I had trouble getting my ships to stay together and follow orders. They move at different speeds, sometimes veer off on their own trajectories, and inexplicably require constant command inputs because after a short while, they apparently forget to fire. It’s frustrating and tedious to always have to tap on them and then the enemy you want to target and tap again to activate a special power when it recharges. It doesn’t help that these ships gravitate toward one another so that they overlap, making it difficult sometimes to select one over the other. The result is your ships sitting fat in space while the enemy blows you to dust.
It’s real-time combat, sure. But I wish it wasn’t. Pyramus’s stubborn, unreliable controls and droll missions offer gamers little reason to conquer the far reaches of space, let alone continue playing.
Fighting Fantasy: Forest of Doom
Playing the latest gamebook adventure from Tin Man Games is like tearing out of a page from my childhood story. Fighting Fantasy: Forest of Doom ($5.99 for iOS and Android) recalls everything I loved about the old pick-your-adventure book The Forbidden Towers, where monsters, traps, and strange magic were only steps away. So was almost assured death.
Ian Livingstone’s famous Forest of Doom (which has a fantastic cover that Tin Man Games has re-created in-game) is harder than I remember my favorite adventure book being, but it’s a good kind of challenge. (And the developer has implemented a number of difficulty modes, from hard to casual.) It’s filled with the same kind of mystery and mayhem — beasts like giant spiders and shape-changers, perilous environments, and unexpected turn of events — only with dice rolls and an enigmatic setting called the Darkwood Forest. The wood’s memory-fogging mist can make you forget its secrets when you leave, condemning you to retry your quest over and over again. Of course, if you’re determined to seek out the lost dwarven warhammer, which has been split in two, so that you can save the inhabitants of Stonebridge, you’ll want to return.
You start the game by rolling the in-game dice for your stats: stamina (health), skill (base strength, which combines with dice rolls for total attack power), and luck (this helps you survive unfortunate scenarios with minimal consequences). The handy adventure sheet keeps track of all of the math for you, along with your items, money, and other assets. Before you delve into the forest, you can purchase an array of items from the wizard Yaztromo, and these open up new possible story paths as you encounter travelers, creatures, or tricky situations.
The best feature is quite possibly the map, which fills out as you play. When the story tells you that you can move north or east, for example, you can check the map to see where you’d be headed and whether you want to venture there. But Forest of Doom is a much more complex puzzle than just discovering new routes. You need the right items, and some of them you can only acquire by obtaining other ones through the story.
The map is like a maze, too. You can’t always journey in the direction you want due to various circumstances, and if you reach the forest clearing on the road to Stonebridge, the adventure ends. You can either restart, reload a bookmark to return to a previous page location, or win a dice roll to continue adventuring — but with your memory and inventory wiped clean.
While these elements make the game surprisingly enjoyable, it would help if the map were a little more comprehensive. You can’t select and view any indicators; it’s merely look and no touch. There’s no narrator like in Tin Man's previous title Trial of the Clone, but this highly replayable and intensely paced game may be better off without it.
Replete with a visually pleasing, earthy interface (the menu buttons are tree leaves) and immersive music, Forest of Doom is addictive. You may even be compelled to take your own notes, old-school style, even though Tin Man Games handles all the pen-and-paper and dice-rolling work for you. But these conveniences don’t make the secret warhammer any less elusive. Back into the forest you’ll go — again and again.
These games were reviewed on an iPad Mini.
If you love board games, you may want to give Agricola ($6.99 for iOS) a chance. Your goal is to build a farm and maintain it in 17th-century Europe despite all the difficulties of the time period. It’s all about budgeting resources, plowing fields and harvesting crops, raising animals, and feeding your old-timey family.
It’s based on the classic board game and supports 1-5 players through various multiplayer modes: asynchronous, real-time online, and pass-and-play.
Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD is headed to mobile platforms.
Ubisoft has announced Trials Frontier, which will release alongside the console game Trials Fusion.
The interactive television show Rabbids Invasion lets the audience engage with the story via Xbox One and their mobile screens.