March 18, 2016 by macjeff

_PRISM ($2.99) by Clint Siu is an atmospheric puzzle game that takes you on a journey through a microcosmic galaxy. If you need to unwind after a long day with an immersive puzzle game on your iOS device, then _PRISM is worth checking out. It has a similar vibe to some other games out on the market, such as Cobe the Gallery and Maestria.

During my time here at AppAdvice, I’ve covered hundreds of games in the past several years. I’ve tried many different genres, and while I pretty much love anything that can just help me pass the time, my favorite is still the good old puzzle game. These are the types of games that stimulate my mind while also putting me at ease, which is something I need even more as of late. I think I’ve tried pretty much every popular puzzle game that there is on the App Store, but as you know, I’m always on the lookout for the next big thing, because variety is definitely the spice of life. So when I got news of _PRISM in my inbox, I was intrigued and had to check it out.

The visuals in _PRISM are absolutely gorgeous. Since it takes place in a self-described “microcosmic galaxy,” the game features dark color gradients in the background that are filled with particles of light that closely resemble stars. The level selection screen resembles a geometric solar system, as there is a large orb in the middle (like a sun) that has different shapes surrounding it, though nothing moves as if in orbit. All of the shapes are fully rendered in 3-D, with silky, reflective surfaces thanks to the stunning lighting system and soft particle effects, and seamless transitions as they expand and collapse during gameplay. The animations in the game are smooth and fluid, with no lag or choppiness on my iPhone 6s Plus. The ambient soundtrack is peaceful and calming, which is delightful to listen to as you play since it should help you focus. Sound effects are whimsical and somewhat mysterious, which only add to the overall charm of the game.

Like other puzzle games, _PRISM features a variety of puzzles that come in multiple stages that you must solve before moving on to the next. The game has a total of 13 levels at the moment, which only total about an hour of gameplay. This is a bit disappointing since it seems so short, but it can also serve as a way to just sit back and relax due to the graphics and music. Hopefully the developer is considering adding more stages in the future, because at the moment, the price is a tad high for what you get.

Controls in _PRISM are simple enough to understand, as everything is pretty straightforward and intuitive. As you go through the puzzles, you’ll be using a combination of multitouch gestures to adjust the camera angle and move lines around in order to find the solution. The objects can be rotated by dragging your finger around, you can pinch to zoom in or out, lines can be rotated by using two fingers, and drag the solid dots to move line patterns into their proper places on the side of the object. When you figure out the answer to one side of the object, another face will light up and you’ll have to go there and solve that part. You repeat this process until you find the solution for all of the lit up sides and complete that shape in the galaxy.

So the game is made up of various shapes and lines, but there’s more to it than that. According to the developer’s app description, each piece of geometry is a symbol of the classical elements that build up our lives and the rest of the world. It’s a bit philosophical for a puzzle game, but I believe it is done incredibly well. The game serves as your own camera lens into these elements and the exploration of each can be done at your own pace, so it’s a nice, meditative experience. For a game that is only made by one person, it’s rather impressive.

I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what _PRISM has to offer, but so far I’m enjoying the ride. The visuals are downright beautiful, the music is captivating and immersive, the controls feel natural, and the gameplay is rather interesting. If you need a way to relax, then this is the perfect little gem to do so. I just hope to see more content in the future, if at all possible.

I recommend giving the game a try if you want a zen-like puzzle game that you can play at your own pace after a long, hectic day. You can get _PRISM on the App Store as a universal download for your iPhone and iPad for just $2.99. There are no in-app purchases.

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Shadow Blade: Reload

March 18, 2016 by macjeff

Shadow Blade: Reload ($4.99) by Crescent Moon Games and Dead Mage is the surprise remake of the original Shadow Blade that came out back in January 2014. If you love fast-paced action platformers, ninjas, and epic combat, then Shadow Blade: Reload is the perfect mix for you.

Ever since I started watching anime in high school, I developed a liking for ninjas and all kinds of crazy action in cartoons. I mean, what’s not to like about stealthy shadow-like warriors who use katanas and are super agile? And of course, I grew up on platformer games back in the day, so naturally, when you mix in kickass ninjas and action-packed platforming, I’m all over it like white on rice. I enjoyed the original Shadow Blade when it first came out two years ago, but as a big Crescent Moon Games fan, I was eager to check out what else they had in store for this awesome action platformer game. Turns out they did not disappoint.

Visually, Shadow Blade: Reload is stunning. Since the original came out a while ago, the graphics in this followup are much more polished and look fantastic on Retina screens. It has a classic graphic novel art style to it, which just adds to the overall charm of the title. The environments are vast and full of small details, and the colors in the game are a nice mix of dark and gloomy and rich, vibrant hues, depending on where you are. Shadow Blade: Reload also doesn’t skimp out on the textures, so everything is about as realistic as you’d expect from a detailed graphic novel. Animations in the game are smooth and fluid, with no lag on my iPhone 6s Plus. The ambient soundtrack is captivating and fits in perfectly with the theme, making you feel drawn into the world. Sound effects are a bit “bloody” as you slice up your foes, but that just adds to the charm of the game. I mean, it’s ninjas — what did you expect, rainbows and sunshine?

In Shadow Blade: Reload, there are two game modes: Story and Challenges. The Story will take you through the campaign, which has a pretty simple enough story and you’ll traverse through different stages on a map until you finally restore balance in the world. There are more than 40 levels, and each stage has a different layout, naturally, and you must go from the start to the ending point while getting rid of all of the enemies that stand in your way. There are also four challenging boss fights that you’ll need to best to progress in the game. You get a grade at the end of a level depending on your performance, with points awarded for completing it quickly, kills, and completion (finding orbs and kanji). If you die, you get penalized for it, so the less deaths, the better. Challenges are more like tests of skill and endurance, with difficulty levels that are much harder than the campaign levels. These are real challenges and not for the faint of heart — I recommend playing the story mode first and mastering the basics before even attempting to do Challenges.

Controls in Shadow Blade: Reload are simple and straightforward. If you’ve played platformers before on the iOS platform, then you’ll be familiar with the generic control scheme. In the bottom left will be two directional buttons for your character to move left or right. You can double tap on these arrow buttons to perform a dash in that direction, allowing you to smash through some feeble wooden blockades. On the opposite side, you have three buttons: jump, attack, and ranged attack with shurikens (ninja stars). You’re only able to throw three shurikens at a time, so make sure to keep an eye on that in the top left corner to make sure you have enough at any given time. You can perform double jumps by tapping the button twice, and when you’re on a wall, your ninja can perform wall jumps consecutively as long as you keep the momentum going. As you’re in range of enemies, tapping on the attack button lets you slice them up and move on.

Due to the fast-paced nature of the game, you will die if you fall into a dangerous obstacle like spikes, or get hit by an enemy (ranged or melee). However, there are many checkpoints that are scattered throughout each stage that allows you to pick up from that point if you die, though again, you are penalized for deaths, so keep them to a minimum if possible. You can always attempt to restart it and try for no deaths after you memorize how a stage goes. As new enemy types are introduced in the game, you’ll get some interesting little cutscenes that show off their unique specialities, which let you strategize how to bring them down.

Even though there is a set number of stages in the campaign and challenge modes, there is plenty of replay value to be had here. You’ll always want to go back and replay levels to find all orbs and kanji that you may have missed, and it’s fun to try and best your own previous high score. The game also has Game Center integration for leaderboards and achievements, so you can compare scores with each other.

I’ve only been playing Shadow Blade: Reload for a bit, but so far I’m loving every second of it. The game looks gorgeous, the music gets you in the mood for some ninja action, and the controls are intuitive. Gameplay starts out pretty simple, but the difficulty level amps up gradually, giving you enough of a challenge to keep you busy. Having two different modes means there is enough variety in the game to keep things fresh as well, so the replay value is high. The only thing I don’t like about the game is that everything looks rather small on the iPhone, even the 6s Plus, so I wish that things could be a bit bigger, as I sometimes died due to not clearly seeing what was ahead because of the small graphics and fast pace. Hopefully this can be fixed in the future, but it is still a fun game overall.

I recommend checking out Shadow Blade: Reload if you are a fan of Crescent Moon Games, enjoy ninjas and bloody platforming action. You can get Shadow Blade: Reload on the App Store as a universal app for the iPhone and iPad for just $4.99. There are no in-app purchases.

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March 18, 2016 by macjeff

Abzorb ($2.99) by Gerald Kelley is an arcade game that involves a lot of absorption, tilting, and fast reflexes. If you enjoyed titles like Tilt To Live 2: Redonkulous and its predecessor, then you are sure to love what Abzorb brings to the table.

I have gone through hundreds of games on iOS throughout the years, and while I’ve tried many genres, I believe that the arcade game that can be enjoyed in short bursts throughout the day is one of the best for the platform. These are fast-paced, levels are usually short, and it’s challenging enough so that you don’t just breeze right through everything. These games are the ones that you can enjoy on your commute or while you wait in line at the store. I’ve gone through plenty of these arcade style games, but I am always on the lookout for new ones to keep me occupied. This week, I was delighted to check out Abzorb this week when news of it hit my inbox.

Visually, Abzorb features a simple and clean style that minimalists will love. The game sports a slightly off-white background that provides great contrast for the blue and red circles, dark gray lines, and the triangle that you control in all of the craziness. Everything is flat, so it goes well with modern iOS aesthetics, and the sans serif typography is easy to read, even when the remaining time in the background of a level is blurred. The colors all go together well, and the animations are smooth and fluid with no lag on my iPhone 6s Plus. There are also other color themes that you can unlock as you play the game, so there is plenty of choice to be had once you get far enough. The ambient soundtrack is soothing and relaxing, which is nice compared to the hectic action of the gameplay itself. Sound effects are pretty fun, as they have a “clicky” sound to them, which are nice indicators of when you are doing something right or something bad is happening. Overall, Abzorb is a nice little gem in term of visuals and audio.

Like a lot of other arcade games, Abzorb is based on levels and has a total of 65 stages for you to tilt your way through. The objective is pretty straightforward: fill your triangle’s surrounding circle with blue, which is absorbed from the blue circles that are flying around. The absorption process starts when the blue is contained within your own circle, but be careful to not bump into them, as you’ll bounce away and have to recover. Watch out for the red circles, though, as they will steal time away from you, and those seconds matter a lot. There is a time limit on each level, as indicated by the ticking numbers in the background, and you can earn up to three stars on stages depending on your performance. The remaining time on a level is your final score. Once your triangle’s circle is filled with blue through its entirety, then you’ve cleared the stage and can move on to the next.

Controls in Abzorb are entirely tilt-based, so prepare to look a bit weird if you want to play it in public. When the game is first launched, it will ask you if you prefer a custom or flat positioning, with the latter being the recommendation. No matter which one you choose, though, the controls are pretty much the same all around — just tilt your device to steer your triangle around on the screen, collect and absorb the blue while avoiding the red. Sometimes you’ll also encounter special orbs that can give you bonuses or help you out, such as extending the range at which you can absorb blue, time extensions, and more. As you find and discover these special orbs, you’ll find out what they can do, so you’ll want to make sure to use them to your advantage.

Even though there are only 65 levels in the game, I found the replay value of it to be pretty high. This is because you can go back to any stage to replay it and hopefully get a better score than your last best one, as well as earn all of those precious stars. There is also Game Center integration so you can climb the leaderboards and impress your friends.

I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of Abzorb, but so far I’m finding the game to be rather enjoyable. I love the minimal graphics, the music and sounds are fun, and the gameplay itself is pretty challenging. But the intuitive and natural controls mean that it is easy to pick up and play but put down when needed. This is a title that is best enjoyed in short bursts throughout the day, so it’s a great time-waster when you need it.

I recommend giving Abzorb a try if you’re in the mood for a simple pick-up-and-play arcade game that tests your speed and reflexes. You can find Abzorb on the App Store as a universal download for your iPhone and iPad for just $2.99. There are no in-app purchases.

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March 18, 2016 by macjeff

Go LA (Free) by Xerox Corporation is a great companion app for Los Angelenos and visitors alike. If you’ve ever visited the city, then you will know that traversing the area to get to where you need can be rather daunting for newcomers and perhaps a bit tedious for residents. The Go LA app aims to simplify all of that, providing you with seamless travel planning and a simple way to get around town.

I have lived in the Los Angeles County all my life, and I know that while we don’t have the best public transportation system, it’s still pretty easy to navigate your way around with the current system, given that you know what you’re doing. Personally, I like to drive everywhere I go because of convenience, but when you’ve seen what a nightmare LA traffic is at times, especially during rush hour, well, you’d best avoid it as much as you can. This is why I prefer taking the trains when I do go on some downtown adventure during the weekends, but sometimes that isn’t the most effective way to go about things. So when I heard that the city of Los Angeles was releasing a new app to help people out with traveling around the city, I had to give it a try.

The Go LA app has a fairly simple and barebones design that blends in rather well with the modern aesthetics of iOS. It really isn’t anything fancy in terms of iOS apps, but this will definitely get the job done. The white used in the app provides nice contrast the varying colors that each different type of transportation offer, which is visually appealing. And while the app can feel a bit cluttered due to all of the options of travel it provides you, it is organized well so it’s easy to pick just what you need for the moment. If you make a trip frequently, the Go LA app allows you to save your favorites for quick access later. Overall, I think the developers have done a pretty good job of creating a slick app for Los Angeles travelers, both old and new.

The first thing that pops up when you launch Go LA is a signup/login screen. While signing up for an account is easy (you can sign up with your email or just use Facebook Connect), there is an option to skip signup or login entirely if you don’t feel like having yet another account to worry about. Having the option to use the app without a login is pretty nice, and something that more apps need to consider for their users. Having an account will only be important for the Profile features, which are not yet functioning in the app, but will be in the future. Go LA allows you to save your favorite trips without an account, so you don’t have to worry about losing those, since it appears they’re saved locally on your device. You’ll also select your preferred transportation methods in the setup, which include public transport, taxi, Flitways, Lyft, Car, Zipcar, motorbike, and bicycle. If you have suggestions on modes of transportation to add, select “Other Transport” and send your idea off to them.

When you get in Go LA, the first thing you’ll be in is the “Ride Now” section. From here, you can plan your trip to anywhere in most of Los Angeles County, all of Orange County, and some parts of Riverside County, San Bernardino County, and Venture County. It’s important to note that the app does not cover anywhere north of the Los Angeles National Forest (i.e., Palmdale, Lancaster, or Gorman), Catalina Island, and Santa Clemente Island. Still, even with these restrictions, the Go LA app covers a large part of Southern California, so it should still be helpful in planning most of your trips.

To plan an excursion, just select where you’d like to start from, including Current Location, and then type in the destination you want. The results show up in real-time and are powered by Google, so everything is fairly accurate. You can also select the time you want to leave or arrive by, and then route the trip. The trip results are organized into three sections: Sooner, Cheaper, and Greener. If you want to get there fast, then obviously you pick Sooner. When you want to be a bit conservative with your wallet, go Cheaper. And if you don’t mind a bit of exercise included in your trip, then go Greener.

As you view the trips the app gives you, it’s easy to see how long each one will take, as well as what the trip consists of. You’ll see icons representing the different modes of transport that you’ll be taking on the trip, and how long each component will be. The app also tells you how much each trip will cost (or approximations when it comes to things like Lyft), as well as how many calories you’ll burn on your walk or bike. There are direct links to book a ride through the integrated services, parking can also be booked through ParkWhiz if available, and the app can launch Apple Maps to get you directions for driving or walking. There are buttons at the top to switch the start and end points, and you can tap on the heart to add it to your Favorite Trips.

The app’s settings, which can be accessed through the side panel (tap on the hamburger button in the top left corner), let you sign in or out of your account, change distance units, choose transport methods, and select the default sorting view. From here, you can also set your walking speed, max walk time, minimum transfer time, and how much 10 minutes is worth to you. When these factors are taken into account, it will change what results you get when planning your outings.

The “My Profile” section is currently under development, but it will give users nice views of how much they saved in terms of cost, time, mode, fitness, and personal goals.

I’ve checked out Go LA over the weekend, and so far I’m finding the app to be a rather useful tool as I go about my daily LA adventures. It is simplistic, fast and responsive, and the detailed results are nice to look at (it’s always interesting to see how many calories you’ll burn on your way to the restaurant or elsewhere). The only issue I have with the app is that it seems to like giving me more bus routes than Metro trains, as I’m near a train station but the app does include trains in my trips unless I am already at the train station. It’s a bit annoying, and I would like to see more nearby trains included when planning out a route, because that’s my preferred method of transport when going out during the day. Maybe even splitting up “Public Transport” to separate Bus or Train options would help too.

Still, Go LA is a pretty nice app for anyone who lives in Southern California or is planning on visiting the City of Angels. It’s a great tool to help you get around where you need to go, and I recommend having it on your device. You can get Go LA for your iPhone for free on the App Store

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Splash Cars

March 18, 2016 by macjeff

Splash Cars (Free) by Craneballs s.r.o. is a frantic arcade game that feels like a mix of Pako Car Chase Simulator and Splatoon. If this sounds like a chaotic blast to you, then you won’t be disappointed, as that is exactly what this is.

When I reviewed Pako Car Chase Simulator, I fell in love with the simplistic isometric graphics and the unique, challenging gameplay that the game offered. I mean, it’s certainly not everyday you get to drive a car recklessly in order to avoid being caught by the cops, right? At least that’s what I hope, anyway. Because of my love of Pako, as well as games that involve splashing around paint because of Splatoon, I was intrigued when I heard of Splash Cars. I mean, a game that combines both Pako with a dash of Splatoon? What more could I ask for?

The graphics in Splash Cars are definitely reminiscent of Pako, albeit the former has a bit more detail to things. It has the same kind of isometric flair going on, which I enjoy a lot. The environments are all different, though somewhat similar, and everything looks rich and lush and just full of detail. The colors in Splash Cars are bright and vivid, so it definitely stands out more compared to Pako, though everything starts out with a gray monotone at first. Animations in Pako are smooth and fluid, with no lag on my iPhone 6s Plus. The game also has an upbeat and quirky soundtrack that is fun to listen to as you outrun the cops and paint the town, and sound effects are a nice touch.

Like many other arcade games, Splash Cars is based on levels, and each stage is unlocked by reaching a certain threshold of paint coverage in the previous level. These cars are special, as they leave behind a trail of paint behind them, which adds splashes of color to the dull, gray environments. As you can imagine, this can be rather difficult at times, given that each car in the game has a limit to fuel in the tank, and if you’re out of fuel, well, you can’t paint anymore. There are gas canisters scattered around the map that you can collect to get some fuel back, as well as coins and stamps to spend on new cars. You can also unlock other things by covering a certain percentage of each map with paint, and these extras include new cars and even bonus stamps, which serve as the game’s premium currency. Different cars will have different speed and tank sizes, so naturally, the better cars must be earned as you play the game, or you can unlock them early in exchange for some in-app purchases of coins and stamps.

The controls in Splash Cars are simple and straightforward enough. If you played Pako Car Chase Simulator, then they should be familiar. In the beginning of each stage, your car will be sitting somewhere on the map. Once you tap the screen to start, it will move forward at full speed automatically, but it is up to you to control the steering. The button in the bottom left allows you to turn your car left, and the right button lets you turn right. There’s no way to brake, so you need to be careful with your turns, as crashing into walls and obstacles will damage your car, which slows you down after a certain threshold. As mentioned, you’ll need to collect green gas canisters to refill the tank so you can keep painting, and there will be other cars driving around that you can get to join your side and add some paint coverage of their own. However, when you are near pesky police cars, they will start chasing you as you paint, trying to cause damage to your car. And make sure to collect coins, stamps, and power-ups whenever you can, as they can give you a nice boost in the stage.

The main objective is to paint enough of the environment as you drive, but this becomes a challenge due to the gas limitations and police out to get you. Once you reach the percentage goals (indicated in the top right corner), you can continue if there’s gas left, or just tap a button to finish the stage now. You’ll earn coins depending on your performance, and the game has it’s own “rank” system, where you can earn new power-ups and boosts after reaching a certain number of miles with your cars.

As if the awesome game concept wasn’t fun enough, the game has high replay value due to the Game Center integration and opportunities for new cars to do better on old stages. There is also iCloud game save support, so you can take your progress with you, regardless of what device you’re using.

I’ve only spent a bit of time with Splash Cars over the weekend, but I’m thoroughly enjoying it so far. The visuals are beautiful, quirky music and sound effects make the game even more fun, the gameplay itself is challenging, and the controls are responsive. However, since the game is a free download, it does make use of an annoying energy system (batteries) and sometimes the levels seem so difficult at first that it feels like the game is pushing you to get some in-app purchases to help you out. I’m not a fan of this model, but that just seems how mobile gaming wants to be nowadays. The interface also gets a bit cluttered since there is a lot going on, which is a bit off-putting. Still, the game is a fun little time waster and let’s face it — leading the cops on a high speed chase while painting the neighborhood is incredibly fun, and not having to deal with real-life consequences is a bonus.

I recommend giving Splash Cars a try if you want a fun arcade game that will help you pass the time. You can get Splash Cars on the App Store as a universal download for the iPhone and iPad for free with in-app purchases.

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