Every Saturday here on GameZone, we assess a handful of new titles released for iOS and Android and update you on the biggest news we covered during the week.
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A Ride into the Mountains
I play a lot of fun games every week for this feature, but this one stands out as one of the best. It’s beautiful, with minimalist pixel graphics and a feeling of serenity and connectedness with nature that made Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP so memorable.
A Ride into the Mountains (99 cents on iOS and Android) also focuses on a journey. A man named Zu ventures on horseback into the mountains to restore a precious relic. Along the way, he must defeat the evil black creatures that attempt to stop him from reaching the summit.
Zu is an archer, and it’s amazing how well the game maximizes the tilt and touch functionality of mobile devices to emulate the experience of riding at high speeds and slinging a bow. Tilting moves Zu backward or forward or side to side, depending on the route he takes — across a flat field, up a narrow pass, and so on. These different perspectives lend a sense of progress during the ascent.
Players pull back on the screen with their thumbs to notch and ready an arrow and then release to fire. The mechanic works harmoniously with the tilt controls but is a good kind of challenge to master as you must constantly move to evade enemy attacks. Early on, Zu learns to focus, which allows players to slow down time and view an arrow’s trajectory as they adjust the aim. This is the key to defeating many of the trickier foes and accounting for disruptive forces such as wind. But what’s arguably the best ability, learned last, is one I won’t spoil for you.
The game’s smartest feature, a counter to its sheer (but fair) difficulty, is the excellent save system. After you defeat every wave of enemies, it marks your progress — even if you quit and return later. Die, and the game refills your hearts and restarts you at that same moment. At the end of each sequence (shown with a meter at the bottom of the screen) is a boss and then a moment of calm as Zu and his horse rest before continuing onward.
There are some nice bonuses if you beat the game, too.
I’ve reached out to the Taiwan-based developer, Lee-Kuo Chen, and will be sharing his story about the game soon, so keep an eye out for our interview.
This is the part where we put games to a quick 20-minute test (or longer if I can’t help myself). Are they fun?
Riptide GP 2
Speaking of tilt controls, I hate tilt steering in racing games. And I’ve only found it harder to maneuver a vehicle on water than on land. Riptide GP 2 ($3 on iOS and Android) is a wonderful exception.
You can thank developer Vector Unit for that. The water-racing sequel to Riptide GP is a demanding game, a true test of skill — a demonstration of mastery over tumbling waves that can serve as a springboard for pulling off cool airborne moves. But the controls (tilt or two interfaces for touch) are not an obstacle.
Players compete in a different races, hot laps (against the clock), elimination rounds (which knocks out the last-place player every 15 seconds), and freestyle events. Winning is about hugging curves and executing stunts with different combinations of fast finger swipes. The more complicated they are, the bigger boost they give, and the longer that satisfying motion-blurred zoom will last.
Earning stars for placing first, second, and third unlocks new courses, but this also nets you experience. Each level-up awards a cash bonus and skill point so players can upgrade their hydro jet, purchase a new ride, and buy new stunt abilities and other permanent perks.
The game also features online play if you’d rather take on human rivals.
Riptide GP 2 is simple but compelling, and it helps that the game looks and sounds amazing as well. Stunts are truly the shining feature, however, since you need to remember which ones you’ve performed in a race. Repeat them, and the boost bonus is reduced. You need to work hard for every victory, but each is rewarding. This feels like a console-quality racer squeezed into a mobile game.
Totoros meet Temple Run meets competitive puzzle games like Tetris Attack.
That’s the kind of game Battle Rush (free on iOS from Esquilax Games) is if you can imagine it. Furry, Totoro-esque creatures run forward on an endless-runner-style field littered with obstacles, golden bugs (representative of coins), and power-ups. But as players collect red and green bugs to fill their attack and health meters, respectively, they’re in constant competition with someone else.
That’s where the player-versus-player element enters in. Attacks are more damaging when you fill the meter completely and then head for an attack box to dish out the pain. You can’t see the other player’s actions, but you can monitor their health bar to determine who’s in the lead. But as opponents do the same, you need to figure out whether you’re going to run for that big health boost or that mystery power-up that could be a magnet, multiplier, or another special. Each choice is critical to gaining the advantage or losing it. And just like in Temple Run, you can spend coins to level up a character’s stats and item prowess or buy a new one with better attributes.
I’m not sure how much this skews competitive play in one person’s favor, though, when, for example, a level-one player is matched with someone who’s level five — or someone equipped with more upgrades. And the bad news is you lose experience points when someone beats you.
Like many other free-to-play games, you also have to wait for one of your hearts to recharge (you lose one of three total with each failure) about every 20 minutes unless you want to spend coins (or make an in-app purchase). Players can also pay to start a match with a limited power-up.
While the Battle mode is oddly addictive — and I recommend the game for that twist of a feature alone — Collect mode is a boring version of it. Basically, it’s a way for players to farm golden bugs for coins without consequences, and because you’re not fighting against someone, one round can go on forever. It’s painfully dull, and progress is slow.
I do like that the game remixes both Temple Run-style modes by interjecting small segments where players tilt their device to steer as their character jumps into the sky and falls into an arc of golden bugs. It’s kind of delightful.
These games were reviewed on an iPad Mini.
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