Adventure, To The Max! [iPhone Game Review]

(written by guest author Tim Giron. follow Tim on Twitter @timgiron)

From the creators of Harbor Master, Max Adventure [iTunes $0.99] by Imangi Studios for iPhone and iPad features a colander wearing, zap gun shooting, little tyke who likes to kick alien butt and take alien names (most of which are unpronounceable, I am sure). The premise is that this alien horde has taken all of the adults (for what nefarious purpose, we are not told – my bet is on some type of probing), so it’s left to the kids to save the planet. Little Max and his friends will have to make the most of whatever they can find to outlast and outshoot the invaders in both survival and story modes.



It’s only been out for about 3 weeks now, but this game has gotten a lot of praise in the form of a 5 star rating on iTunes with 108 reviews. And with good reason: the gameplay is ultra-smooth using a dual "stick" type control (left for moving Max, right for aiming and firing), the graphics are top notch and the music and sound effects fit right in (orchestral music beds, for the win).


For the story mode, you start out fairly easy to give you a chance to get a feel for the controls. It took me a little bit to make the most of the independent sticks and I spent most of my time running backwards, blasting away at the various alien species. Each level adds more aliens, a tougher goal and of course more power ups to help you reach that goal. At first, it appears you are alone, but you soon run into your friend Lizzie, who usually offers helpful advice, sometimes cajoling you into action while always standing aside to let you do the heavy lifting! By the third level, you are racing to locate six more kids before you fall, no simple task.


For the survivor mode, it’s just you against wave after wave of the alien horde. If you run behind a building, it turns semi-transparent, allowing you to see all of the action. Get at least 50 kills in a round and you’ll earn one of the myriad Game Center achievements that the game offers. Online leaderboards are provided as well, reason enough to engage your Game Center account.


The game is currently 99 cents, but this is rumored to be an introductory price. The latest update allows you to play the game on a TV hooked up with the VGA cable. I just kicked myself for not having one of those cables so I could make this into a truly Max Adventure.

3° of Wikipedia, 360° of Head Spinning [iPhone Game Review]

(written by guest author Tim Giron. follow Tim on Twitter @timgiron)

3 Degrees Of Wikipedia iPhone Game

I consult the Wikipedia all the time for fun facts, always verifying the crowd-sourced info before citing it anywhere else. When I heard there was a game based around the information on this well traveled site, I figured I’d give it a look. At first blush, the game sounds interesting: connect one Wikipedia page to another by finding the intermediate page that links to the second one AND that the first one links to. That’s right, you are finding the middle link in a chain before someone says "You are the weakest link!".


As an example, one problem goes Pig -> ? -> Economy. It took me quite a while to find "Even-toed ungulate" as the joining page, and I have a Bacon number of 4 (I just looked it up and no, I’m not gonna tell you how I connect to Kevin Bacon because I am not a name dropper unless some cash is going to exchange hands). What chance do others have of completing these puzzles in the normal and customary 24 hour day?


Much like Wikipedia itself, the puzzles, here called problems, are crowd-sourced. Have a great idea for a chain? Submit it and as others try to solve it they will be given the opportunity to rate the "enlightenment" of the problem and its corresponding answer. I was going to submit the problem Tim Giron -> ? -> One Billion Dollars, then I realized that I actually had to know the answer ahead of time to submit it. And here I thought I had figured out a way to let all of you give me a hand with this personally important issue. I know what you are thinking, "but Tim, you don’t even have a Wikipedia entry" to which I would reply "that is a minor setback for a motivated individual".


After several rounds, however, the game began to feel a bit less engaging. Much like a multiple choice question on a Junior High science test, for some pages the answer is readily apparent. Other times, the pages are so chock full of links that you will wade in with both feet and get stuck in the muck.

There are a dizzying array of achievements to be won, most of which encourage you to submit lots of puzzles and then get your friends to feel enlightened by them. If you are a Wikipedia junkie (or perhaps an even-toed ungulate), you will probably find this game fun for a short time. At 99 cents [iTunes] , it won’t cost you much to find out!

Those Birds May Be Angry, But These Trucks Are Evil [Trucks and Skulls Review]

(written by guest author Tim Giron. follow Tim on Twitter @timgiron)


I am enamored with the physics shooter puzzle type of game and Appy Entertainment has delivered a whole lotta love in spades with whipped cream on top for their recent releases of Trucks and Skulls [iTunes $0.99] / Trucks and Skulls HD [iTunes $1.99].  The premise is that the player is given a set of trucks to decimate the smirking skulls.  Why?  Why Not, I say.  Each truck has a particular set of characteristics and using them to the best of their abilities is key to scoring big.  Varying the power and angle of the delivery are the only controls to master.


Like most games these days, the player is given a few easy levels to get their sea legs, but the puzzles ramp up in difficulty after that.  With each successive level, new concepts are added: some are new defenses for the skulls and some are new types of trucks to counteract those defenses.

At first, it makes sense to have the trucks flying through the air at the targets.  About eight levels in I looked at the screen and thought it would make more sense for the truck to travel over the ground.  Sure enough, I just pointed the launcher at it’s lowest possible angle and voila, the truck sped off as trucks often do.  It was at this point that I was hooked.  Appy has delivered a game that gets high marks in my book for originality and attention to detail.


OK, so what’s different between the iPhone and iPad versions?  Plenty, as I soon found out.  While the standard game is quite enjoyable on the iPhone, the HD version really shines on the iPad.  View the game field big and bold, or pinch it down to get the full picture.  And then there’s the level editor… Yes, you heard me correctly… a level editor.  Build your own dastardly creations and share them with others.


This is the first game I’ve seen that has a screenshot button as well.  When you take a screenshot this way, it gets a cool frame and you can share it with your friends.  Of course, bold visuals need bold music and the screaming guitar soundtrack fits right in as you travel from Hell’s Highway to the Haunted Wasteland.  At 99 cents [iTunes] for the iPhone and $1.99 [iTunes] for the iPad, these games are a screaming deal, firing on all cylinders.

This Is No Time to Lay Down Sally! [Sally’s Salon iPhone Game Review]

sally-salon-iphone-2 (written by guest author Tim Giron. follow Tim on Twitter @timgiron)

If you are a fan of the time management games, then you simply must manage to make some time for Sally’s Salon Luxury Edition [iTunes $0.99] and/or Sally’s Salon Luxury Edition for iPad [iTunes $2.99]. I started with the iPhone version earlier in the week and jumped right into the game’s Survival Mode where you keep on going until you lose a disgruntled customer. Mind you this is a full service salon and you’ll need to be quite nimble of finger to keep things running smoothly. I banked a little over 1600 bucks before I accidentally gave somebody a green fauxhawk when they really wanted a purple pixie bob. Harsh words were spoken.


Moving on to the campaign, or career, mode you start out with a little shop at the mall and only a few tasks to manage – shampoo station, style/cut stations, blow dry station. For Day 1, you get a brief tutorial of the gameplay and some tips for keeping your customers happy. After each set of 10 days at a location, you’ll be movin’ on up to the next stop (perhaps even to the east side): a ski resort, the swanky hotel, etc. And, along the way, you’ll get to spend some cash on improvements like turbo washers, a coffee machine and plush chairs to keep your customers both happy and, more importantly, patient.


I also loaded up the iPad version and invited my wife, the "dash" game ninja, to give the two player variant a go with me. This proved to be great fun, since even though it is a co-operative style, you also get separate stats at the end of each round. We quickly realized that I was spending most of my time handing out coffee and magazines while she was a whirling dervish of service with a smile. Along the way we added several more employees: a barista, a shampooing specialist and a truly gifted blow-drying expert. With the endless stream of customers, at one point the shop was so full that I lost myself in the fray (which our daughters, who were looking on found highly amusing as I yelled out "I can’t find me").


One feature of the game that I found interesting was the ability to build a playlist of songs from the iPod while remaining in the game. The games are currently 99 cents for the iPhone and $2.99 for the iPad. Both are very polished and the gameplay is ultra-smooth which is very important for this type of game.

All You Zombies, Show Your Faces [Zombie Escape Review]

(written by guest author Tim Giron. follow Tim on Twitter @timgiron)


Developed by Viqua Games and released by Chillingo a few months ago, Zombie Escape [iTunes $0.99] is a line-drawing game with enough additional plot elements to keep it interesting for a short time. The premise is simple and well established: guide the humans to the helicopters before they become lunch for the undead horde that mills about, ravenous with an ever-present hunger.

The first few levels are extremely easy, with each one introducing something new: a new weapon, a new type of zombie, a new rule, etc. By level 7, things start to get tricky, since you have to call in the helicopters yourself. After level 8, you will also unlock a survival mode.


For weapons you have access to snipers, bombs and meat. Yes, it appears the zombies are partial to sirloin and can be effectively distracted by a nice prime rib or filet mignon. Hey, where to I sign up to be a zombie and get some of the primo grub?


You earn money by completing the levels with flair: kill extra zombies, don’t lose any humans, you get the picture. Between levels, you use your loot to upgrade your weapons and believe me, you’re going to need the extra firepower in the higher levels.


A quick check of the iTunes reviews for the game reveals some disgruntled users, mainly due to crashing. Playing on my lowly 3G, I found that I needed to start the game with a freshly rebooted device to have a satisfactory experience. The game utilizes the Crystal system for online scoring.

Even if it’s not top shelf in the graphics or sound departments, the game is certainly worth the 99 cents you will shell out. Sure, there are better line-drawing games and better zombie games out there, but it will take some doing to complete the later levels.

Danger! Dodgeball, Will Robinson [App Review]

(written by guest author Tim Giron. follow Tim on Twitter @timgiron)

I haven’t played dodgeball since gradeschool, but I still remember the feeling when those red rubber missiles strike. I am happy to report that Danger! Dodgeball for iPhone/iPod Touch [iTunes $0.99] and Danger! Dodgeball HD for iPad [iTunes $1.99] appear to leave no welts.


The game has one of the better "training" modes that I have seen, taking you through all of the skills necessary to do well in the survival mode. And this ain’t no walk in the park, er playground. Your opponent is one tough schoolyard bully. He’s quick, he’s accurate and he’s not your friend.

The controls are simple and intuitive. Tilt left and right to move and dodge. Tilt forward to throw the ball. As you tilt forward, you can also affect the flight of the ball by adding a little side motion. It feels a little clunkier at first on the iPad, but once you find the range of tilt necessary to make the moves, it gets easier.


There are a set of powerups available to give you either health or special shots: "giant ball" is just that, a huge ball to throw for extra points; "shotgun" gives you three balls to throw at once; "multiball" allows you to throw a succession of balls rapidly for maximum striking opportunities. The "shotgun" is also handy for hitting both the opponent and the occasionally appearing graffiti artist as he marks up the back wall.


Not to be outdone, the bully gets some special shots of his own, including a fantastic to watch "matrix style" set of slow-motion balls that are particularly hard to dodge. The HD iPad version sports some additional power ups including a wicked curve ball and the ultimate defense, a force field.

The game is integrated with OpenFeint for global leaderboards. The game sports both music and sound effects that can be independently turned on or off. The authentic "poonk" sound when two balls collide in midair is especially hilarious.


At 99 cents for the iPhone version [iTunes] and $1.99 for the iPad version [iTunes], you get more than your money’s worth. It’s a great action game to just pick up and play whenever the mood strikes you to relive childhood activities.

All Aboard! for First Class Fun [Train Conductor 2 iPhone Game Review]

(written by guest author Tim Giron. follow Tim on Twitter @timgiron)


Train Conductor 2: USA [iTunes $0.99] by The Voxel Agents has quickly become one of my favorite games, offering a pitch-perfect blend of sights, sounds and silky smooth gameplay all wrapped up in a universal app package.  The brief tutorial that starts things off introduces the game mechanics:  numbered trains enter from either side of the screen and you have to create a temporary switch to guide them to their correct track while avoiding collisions (you really don’t want an NTSB investigation clouding your resume).  Once you’ve got the hang of things, you’re off to Miami to take control of a beachside monorail system.  These are relatively slow moving trains, giving the player the a chance to improve their switching skills.  As the round progresses, faster moving express trains appear, keeping this location challenging.


Once you’ve safely delivered a certain number of trains, the next location on the map is opened up.  Nashville and it’s apparently haunted by the ghosts of long forgotten musicians.  I found this location to be the easiest for high scoring.  Since they are incorporeal, there are no collisions, but the red demon trains must be delivered to the correct track.  And these ghost trains move very fast.  Playing this level on the iPad, I found the multi-touch to be extremely responsive as I switched trains with both hands.


After scoring another hundred trains delivered, it’s time to visit the Big Apple where you are put in charge of 5 subway lines.  This was by far the most challenging location for me to play since you have to route the trains around pillars and the tracks are labeled with both numbers and letters.  This level requires an extreme amount of focus to navigate successfully.  The attention to detail that the developers have put into this game is really apparent in this level since the subway lines are authentically color-coded.


Once you’ve passed the 300 trains mark, it’s time for another trip into the ghost world for the next location: Las Vegas.  Here, the gameplay changes up a little bit since you aren’t switching the trains between the tracks.  Instead, you have to work a little pick-n-flick to save the ghosts before they fall into the traps set up at the center of the screen.  The entire game, and particularly this level, really gives your hand-eye coordination a workout.  It’s a great way to hyper-focus your noodle during a busy day!


At the 600 trains delivered mark, you get to visit my home state, Arizona, for a trip to the Grand Canyon, where you have to keep the steam trains from plunging into the gorge below (talk about pressure).  I should mention that you can revisit any of the locations that you have unlocked as well.  Since each level plays like it’s own game, it’s fun to pick and choose.  My daughters both love the game, but they each like different locations best.


I haven’t yet reached the score to unlock the Roswell, New Mexico location which was recently added, but I’m sure there are aliens involved.  Also planned for a future update is a Seattle trainyard.  The replay value of this game is very high and at 99 cents, this universal app is a steal.  I am quite surprised that the game isn’t in the top charts, since it is definitely in my top ten.

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