Week in Mobile: Turbolab Pursuit, Shadow Escaper, and a big sequel announcement
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 gained access to a rotating selection of the Pokémon animated series episodes and movies all in one place: the Pokémon TV app. We also played around in the artistic community of DrawQuest.
Now, the game that inspired it, Draw Something, has exceeded 100 million downloads. We have some big news about one of the most lauded mobile games of last year (check the highlights down below).
We also got to try a game not so different from Infinity Blade, which was free in the App Store the past week. And we have reviews of a couple new endless runners, too (which you hear endlessly of, we know!).
Publisher BulkyPix and developer Kool Fing (Crazy Escape) released a new game on Thursday -- a hybrid of a runner and a shoot-em-up. It’s called Turbolab Pursuit (free for iPhone and iPad), and on the surface, it’s in the same category as most other side-scrolling endless runners you’ve come across.
The point is to survival as long as you can, collecting as many coins and covering as much distance as possible. That’s how players will set new records, increasing their chances of fulfilling achievements and getting bonuses for them. It's also how they’ll earn enough in-game cash to unlock vehicle upgrades, single-use items and cosmetic changes.
If this all sounds familiar, that’s because the basic concept is nothing new. The best endless runners -- Temple Run 2 comes to mind -- randomize the order of their obstacles without frustrating players, even if they don’t make it far on one try. Those games also incorporate a lot of actions to keep the player engaged.
Turbolab Pursuit does something similar. While customizing the car for better performance is well and fine, the gameplay holds hidden depths. The challenge is multidimensional -- not just to last long and collect eagerly, but to divide your attention different ways.
The pathways that take you into the air (including “heaven” segments, where you ride on clouds while trailing a rainbow) are the safest, but they’re not so easy to access. Players must constantly watch out for enemies behind and in front of them, shooting and jumping to avoid opposing fire or dangerous traps like bombs or rocks. At the same time, you’ll want to look for opportunities to grind on surfaces, which boosts your speed, and gather coins while you find routes to the sky to escape the ever-present danger down below.
Overall, it’s a fun mix that puts pressure on how you can divvy your attention, and that’s what makes Turbolab Pursuit addictive. You can even “pick up” little running people who then stack vertically, like a chain of monkeys, as they hitch a ride on your car. They’ll protect you from a hit that would otherwise deplete your health. The cost to resume play after you’ve died is a little costly, though, at 200-plus coins.
Wanderer: War Song
Let’s take a break from runners for a minute to talk about a new premium game in the App Store called Wanderer: War Song. It’s by Chinese developer WiiShare Technology Interactive, and we introduced it on Wednesday as a third-person action-role-playing game reminiscent of the very successful Infinity Blade (from Chair Entertainment and Epic Games). Both are powered by Unreal Engine 3.
But there are very key differences between the two.
At $5, Wanderer should give you a great experience -- hands-down. Charging for in-app purchases are one thing, but the entry fee is another matter entirely.
Unfortunately, War Song is a very broken game. The graphics are nice but not nearly as impressive as those in Infinity Blade, and the sound is of low-quality. It actually sounds like it’s going in and out when you watch cutscenes of giant golems shaking the ground or your character finishing him off with his sword. On top of that, the story is full of translation errors.
Unlike Infinity Blade, where the tutorial is seamlessly tied into the gameplay as you ascend the tower of the God King, War Song gives you no guidance when you start up the game. It does, however, refer you to a user manual. I tend to avoid these instructions when I start a game and look to them only to refresh my memory later on. Players shouldn’t have to read a set of rules to learn the basics; they should be able to jump right in and learn as they play.
War Song uses virtual twin sticks. The left one controls movement, and the right is for directing the camera. There are also spaces for abilities, which recharge with time, and you attack by swiping on the screen like you would in Infinity Blade.
The problem is that the controls are terrible. The left stick will often get stuck and hold you in place or, worse, confuse the command to move with that of attacking. The camera is overly fast and sensitive, and most of the time you can’t steer it well enough to survey the area and track the monster you’re fighting. This is half the struggle.
Bosses are hard, but that’s not a compliment to them. Their A.I. is terrible and outdated, and they’ll pace the field and cycle through a series of different programmed attacks as they make a half-hearted attempt to actually target you. You can use this time to gain distance and wait for your abilities, including a life-saving healing spell, to recharge before reentering the fray.
Blocking works by double-tapping the screen, but good luck getting this to work right. Most of the time, you’ll suffer damage or your character won’t even respond to the input. Bosses get in plenty of cheap hits, too, so even getting near them involves a test of resolve and patience. If you manage to win, you’re forced to return to the Start screen instead of moving on to the next mission.
Do yourself a favor and stick with Infinity Blade. It’s well worth the price and delivers fulfilling battles -- not drawn-out skirmishes that feel achingly routine.
Back to the endless runners -- only this one’s not quite as “endless” as you might suspect. Shadow Escaper (free for iPhone and iPad and coming soon for Android) is a clever runner much like the Temple Run games, although now, I think I like it even more.
Players start by picking a character: Al, the “Wolven Wonder,” or Lili, the “Dainty Demon.” It doesn’t matter which one you pick, as the controls remain the same and the gameplay is equally as fun. If you’ve played Temple Run, then the controls should come naturally: tilting the device left or right moves the character to either side of the screen, and you can swipe forward to jump, back to slide, and across to change directions.
Shadow Escaper builds on what Temple Run does best -- and with finesse. In Imangi Studio’s game, you’re fleeing from a monkey who’s determined to catch you. Developer CyberConnect2’s gorgeous anime-style game has players running from angels and evading those who land on the path in front of you. Dodging them is part of the challenge, but so is employing fast reflexes as you avoid water puddles (which splash the screen and temporarily obscure part of your view), slide under closing gates, leap over wreckage and gaps, and much more. Also, you’re not running until you die. Instead, all you have to do is survive until nightfall, when you'll transform into a demon and enact revenge on your pursuers. It’s a great way to freshen the genre that Temple Run 2 is currently king of.
You survive for “days,” but when you fail, it’s back to the beginning. Once you’ve survived for five consecutive days, you can enable an option to start from Day 5 (and so on). This costs you three Stamina points each time, though, and I’m not entirely clear how you gain this back.
Costume and Survival Tickets are also a bit of a mystery; presumably, you reacquire all these through play or with passing time. There's no clear way to log in or sign up for account, either, so you might need to do some digging around (the game does use Gree).
These minor curiosities shouldn’t deter you by any means. Shadow Escaper is challenging and rewarding at every turn, and it’s constantly introducing new twists on gameplay. Cliffs force you to tilt the device to one side, but others require you to carefully maneuver along narrow, winding paths or else fall into the abyss. Enemies will block one side of the road or actively try to attack you. And Shadow Escaper isn’t afraid to stack obstacles in quick succession.
Some power-ups give you limited-time flight powers, and you can collect energy (like you would coins in Temple Run) to purchase consumable items or increase the stats of your character, who also grows in rank. Character upgrades (unlockable with Costume Tickets) come in the form of costume changes.
Survival Tickets grant you access to Survival mode, which features an entirely different mood and music. It moves the action from a town on the ground to strange ruins in the sky.
The style actually reminds me of a slash between Bayonetta and Deathsmiles; it’s very cool.
These games were reviewed on an iPad Mini.
Zynga and OmgPop’s mega-popular app Draw Something has passed 100 million downloads. It hit the milestone even after the number of engaged users dropped off mere months after its release. The game was one of the fastest-growing original mobile titles out there.
Disney Interactive has teased a new mobile game starring Buzz Lightyear. The move comes off of the company’s loss of Junction Point Studios and its Epic Mickey series.
The Room, one of the most popular mobile games of 2012, is getting a sequel and a port to Android.
The very cute environmental-puzzle game Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake made enough on Kickstarter to secure support on Android, as well as iOS (and PC/Mac). Its dungeon-style gameplay is akin to The Legend of Zelda.