Android Games Roundup [8/30/20]

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So I would love to blame the gap between roundups on this nasty little pandemic that’s been circling the globe (if you’re reading this after the fact, assuming there is an after the fact, Google the time frame to see what I’m talking about), but thankfully it hasn’t impacted me for the most part. I just don’t seem to get around to spending much time on my phone these days. In fact, I’m pretty sure I started this one pretty much right after I finished the last one, because it has been months since I played the first game on the list. Oh, and there’s also the fact that I spent some time transitioning between phones, which meant either starting games over completely or figuring out how to get the save games to transfer between devices. Incidentally, if you happen to be a developer reading this, take advantage of available services to make data transition seamless. I was amazed at how many games still don’t provide a decent way to start a game on one device and continue it on another. I don’t even care if it’s cross-OS, but it should at least be easily doable for the end user between devices on the same app store. There’s my quick soapbox for the day. Now on to what you actually came here for which is to read about the latest set of games that I have been playing.

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Slime Pizza [1/25/18] – I’ve written about several of their games in the past, and I’m still very much a fan of Nitrome. Games like this are the reason why. There might be a basic plot, but it’s been long enough since I started the game I don’t recall what it is. Ultimately, though, you control a slime and you have to make your way through a spaceship collecting all the pizza slices you can find along your route. The task sounds simple enough, but from deadly lasers to hungry piranha, there are plenty of things that will try and stop you. Fortunately you’ll also find things to help you along the way like keys to open doors, anchors to weigh you down so you can get to the bottom of water filled areas and slingshots that will let you knock out certain adversaries. You can only absorb one item at a time, though, so plan your route wisely. While I don’t believe that any slices of pizza are required to pass from one level to the next it’s in your best interest to collect as many as possible, because you can use the pizza to save your progress at periodic waypoints. You can also revisit any waypoint you wish if you want to try and collect pizza slices that you missed. Luckily ones you’ve already collected are transparent in subsequent visits so it will be obvious which ones still remain to be snatched. The only level of control you have is sliding your finger in the opposite direction that you want the slime to travel and letting go, where the farther you drag away from the slime the longer it will jump. This actually works pretty well for the most part, unless you need to do something quickly like turn a lever to open a trapdoor or outrun a yippy dog. Still, with a little patience you should find yourself progressing at a relatively smooth pace. The game offers 20 achievements to earn, and while it is free to play you can pay to remove ads. Graphically it maintains the high level of pixel goodness I’ve come to expect from a Nitrome game, and the music isn’t bad either. But just like the act of trying to avoid it, the yipping of the guard dog gets annoying quickly.

Verdict: Play
Slime Pizza on Google Play
Slime Pizza Nitrome, Slime Pizza – Free

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Match Town Makeover [5/13/20] – I remember a time when I was actually excited if a new G5 game came out. This was back when they used to publish HoG and adventure games, of course. And I’m not talking about the F2P stuff they churn out now, but entertaining games with complete stories and enough interesting game play to warrant giving them some money. Their latest offering, Match Town Makeover, follows a long string of “complete quests by earning stars from match 3 boards”, and it doesn’t even do it that well. The graphics are indistinguishable from most of the other “house cleanup” games, and the gameplay itself is so boring that it was tough to play through enough levels for me to feel comfortable reviewing the game at all. The biggest problem with this game, however, is the story. The main character is a divorced mom trying to figure out how to break the news to her son (if I understand it correctly). She goes home to see her parents, only to discover the town has been devastated by a hurricane, and then she has to try and prove herself on a job while constantly being undermined by the mayor’s lackey. This is the plot of a bad Hallmark movie, not a casual match 3 game that I want to play. Kids aren’t going to appreciate it, and enough older people play casual games already that there doesn’t seem to be a need to take one like this and make it more “adult” themed. If you’re really in a pinch for a match 3 experience I guess there are some worse offerings, but there are so many other games in this genre that are more deserving of your attention. Just don’t go all Candy Crush on me.

Verdict: Pass
Match Town Makeover on Google Play
Match Town Makeover: Design G5 Entertainment AB, Match Town Makeover: Design – Free

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Memok [6/16/17] – Do you have kids? If so, did you ever play some variant of Memory with them? You know, that game where you try to match two of the same objects by flipping them over, only to get frustrated because your kid keeps moving the pieces around instead of putting them back where they picked them up from? Welcome to Memok, the game that does the perfect job of simulating your five year old son or daughter. The funny thing is, even though it definitely gets frustrating as you try and keep track of the objects while the board is constantly in motion, it’s this same feature that actually makes Memok one of the most interesting memory games to hit the mobile arena. Unfortunately, the game does have its share of annoyances. There is no music, which this type of game really could benefit from given the lack of true action. Since you always have the same number of items on a given board your score is based on time, which is great except that other than trying to reach three stars on each level there’s nothing to really achieve as there are no leaderboards. And, while it might take you a while to get that third star on some levels, there are only 10 levels to play so if you adapt quickly to the idea of the arena always shifting, you could complete the game without too much effort. Sadly, the game hasn’t been updated for almost 2 years, so the chances of any of these things changing are probably slim. Still, if you like memory matching games and are looking for something that you haven’t already played 100 times, you’ll want to give Memok a try.

Verdict: Play
Memok on Google Play

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Meridian 157: Prologue [7/30/19] – This is the free portion of an adventure game series called Meridian 157. I’m sure that was really tough to figure out. So let’s get the bad things out of the way right away. There was too much wandering back and forth, worsened by the fact that several scenes that were virtually unnecessary. There was also no map, which despite the relatively short nature of the game sometimes made it frustrating remembering where to go once you’d found an item to use. Since there were no characters to talk to I figured there’d at least be some journals or notes or something to build up the story a bit, but about the only thing you find to build up suspense is a logo for something called F.L.A.R.E. And to top it all off, none of the mini-games are explained, which isn’t the biggest deal except that the one that unlocks the second half of the prologue basically makes no sense. Despite all of that, I have a soft spot for anyone that makes a good attempt at an adventure game that doesn’t require me to search a hidden object screen every few minutes. The game looks really good, and even though the game is relatively short it felt like there was a decent amount of object based puzzling to complete. While not too much detail was presented for the story there’s still the question of what was causing the strange storms that sent you to your island destination in the first place and who the mysterious figure was that you thought you saw when you first arrived. And, they certainly managed to pull of a cliffhanger that made me want to know what was going to happen next. This may not be all that exciting in and of itself, but it gives me hope that the series itself, which now has two additional chapters, will be something worth diving into.

Verdict: Play
Meridian 157: Prologue on Google Play
Meridian 157: Prologue NovaSoft Interactive Ltd, Meridian 157: Prologue – Free

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Panmorphia [2/16/15] – Wow, two non-hidden object adventure games in one roundup! Much like Meridian, Panmorphia doesn’t do a very good job of building up a story. At the beginning you’re presented with a fairly typical “magical amulet – chosen one – save the world” type plot, and then there’s a couple of disappointing sentences at the end. Otherwise, nothing is really fleshed out in this world that you visit. While you’re there, you do get to experience the land from different vantage points thanks to your eventual ability to turn into a cat, bird and fish. There are some nifty situations produced due to your morphing capability, though I still question how you manage to hold so much inventory in certain forms. I guess the trunk you pick up at the beginning is magical as well to accommodate this feat. At least there’s a map in this game, which is restricted to informational use only, given that not all locations are accessible in every form. It’s on this screen that you have access to what appears to be a limitless amount of hints, and this was my biggest frustration with the game. At one point early on I was ready to quit because I couldn’t get past something that seemed relatively simple, but I broke down and looked online for a hint (before I realized there were hints within the game). I really hate having to use hints, but I’m not sure I could have completed this game without them. Now had it been the case where I just slapped my forehead afterwards and said “duh” then I’d just have to live with that, but I often felt it was because the game was expecting me to do something that was somewhat obtuse. Add to that mini-games that mostly felt tacked in for expanded game play and an extremely anti-climatic ending, and what had the potential of really sucking me in ultimately let me down.

Verdict: Pass
Panmorphia on Google Play
Panmorphia LKMAD, Panmorphia – $1.99

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Turn Undead 2: Monster Hunter [10/24/18] – Nitrome is at it again! This isn’t actually a new game, but I just discovered it a few months ago. It’s kind of hard to complain about a game that takes all the fun of vampire hunting and wraps it up into an intriguing puzzler. There’s no backstory so I assume you are taking on the mantle of the famous Van Helsing. Equipped with a fancy set of guns that launch wooden stakes, you must scour the realm slaying all the things that go bump in the night. The game is turn based, though you can’t always rely on the bad guys only getting to move one spot for every step you take. You also have to take into consideration things like the fact that falling 3 levels means the bad guys get to take 3 of their equivalent steps. The stakes will take care of many of the villains, though some tend to not stay dead even a second time around. Others will require using additional tools in your environment to dispatch, and some just can’t be killed at all. Like any good puzzle game you’ll get your fill of switches, boxes and other items to help you progress through the levels. You can also use the stakes as stepping stones, if you can find a wall to shoot them into. At times you’ll even get multiple copies of yourself to help you fulfill your task. Each level contains a cross to collect, but you don’t need it to finish the level and I’m not sure what happens if you ultimately collect them all. The game links with Google Play, though I’m not sure why as there are no achievements, no leaderboards, and you can’t save your game to restore on another device. Despite that, the game is entertaining, and it boasts the detailed, nicely animated pixel graphics we’ve come to know and love from a Nitrome game. If you like puzzle games, especially with an undead theme, Turn Undead II is definitely worth your time.

Verdict: Play
Turn Undead 2: Monster Hunter on Google Play
Turn Undead 2: Monster Hunter Nitrome, Turn Undead 2: Monster Hunter – Free

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Pirates & Pearls [9/27/17] – My go-to game for match 3 fun right now is Gems of War, but I’ve been looking for another one where the focus is on the match 3 elements rather than the match 3 component being a mechanic to facilitate the rest of the game. If Pirates & Pearls is any indication of the current state of the genre, especially given its “AAA” publisher G5 games, then I guess we hit the peak with games like Homescapes and We Bare Bears Match 3 Repairs. I’d like to say that P&P is not inherently a bad game, but in all honesty compared to the two I just mentioned it’s really boring. The levels are uninspired, the power ups are not original, and the graphics aren’t even that great. They’re like a cheap version of Candy Crush Saga, and that’s being generous. As for the overarching premise, as apparently that’s the defacto standard now for match 3 games that aren’t an RPG hybrid, is that you are a pirate trying to fix up an island to make it your swashbuckling fortress. While the setting I guess is at least a bit different, even that aspect of the game is dull. In other games I tended to bypass that part of the mix anyway, as I was really just in it for the match 3 levels, but the levels in this game have left me so wanting that I turned to the story arc, which promptly turned me away. The other two I mentioned have special events which may or may not exist here, but I don’t think I’m going to hang around long enough to find out. And don’t get me started about the IAP… too late. Within a very short window the game prompted me two or three times to purchase power ups via IAP. Besides the fact that they were way too expensive for the few power ups that you got, the first time around the button simply said “collect” which made it look like something you earned instead of something you had to buy. Thankfully the process of buying the IAP would have ultimately prevented an erroneous sale, but it quite frankly felt just a little bit deceptive. So am I still a match 3 fan? You bet I am. Would I recommend Pirates & Pearls? You bet I wouldn’t.

Verdict: Pass
Pirates & Pearls on Google Play
Pirates & Pearls: Match 3 Game G5 Entertainment AB, Pirates & Pearls: Match 3 Game – Free

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Spiky Foes [7/29/20] – Spiky Foes is another minimalist shooter, this time of the arena variety. All you have to do is survive as long as you can by shooting the enemies and collecting power ups. There are a few different weapon power ups and a green plus that restores your life. Each enemy destroyed earns you a point, and those points allow you to upgrade three factors of game play, which appear to revolve around shooting, acceleration and life. Sadly part of the minimalism is that nothing is explained, so I’m not sure if the shooting upgrades makes your shot more powerful or simply puts less time between bullets, and I’m assuming the other one involves increasing the speed of your ship. The only upgrade that’s obvious is the one that increases the amount of life that you have. There are no achievements to earn, and there is one high score table for the most kills in a single game. Still, despite any limitations the game has the only real problem I have with it is the control. Due to the small nature of everything, it’s hard to get accurately lined up to make a shot unless you have a power up, most of which fade quickly after you’ve acquired them. Additionally, it doesn’t feel like you get a smooth rotation around a circle when you’re turning, which means if the enemies are at an off angle while you’re turning you won’t be able to line up to hit them. I’m not sure if this is intentional or a design flaw, but it can be rather frustrating. Ultimately, though, if you’re into minimalist games and you like a challenge I think Spiky Foes is worth checking out.

Verdict: Play
Spiky Foes on Google Play

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Retro Highway [4/14/18] – If you’re thinking that maybe I’ve reviewed this title before, it’s because I have. As part of transitioning to a new device I’ve been revisiting some of the few games that had a permanent place on my old one, and it didn’t take long for me to remember why this was one of them. The game has a Road Rash feel to it, though sadly there are no other bike racers so you don’t get to knock anyone over with a baton. What you do get to do is rush through varied landscapes collecting coins, annoying drivers and generally trying to stay alive as long as you can. You start out with a basic bike on a simple track, but the coins allow you to buy new bikes that upgrade stats like speed and handling or to upgrade the power ups and make them more useful. You will have three missions at a time to complete, and finishing those gets you closer to unlocking new tracks. They also earn you some coin, so it’s a win-win from that perspective. The tracks bring with them varying levels of coins and traffic, as well as differing amounts and different kinds of hazards. For instance, racing in the Great Desert brings you lots of intersections with cross traffic, while taking a trip to the moon messes with gravity. Many of the missions play better on certain tracks, like riding for a specific distance which is easier to do with fewer hazards and less traffic, while some missions require specific locations because they are the only place to find what the mission wants you to accomplish. The game is pretty basic, but to me that’s part of the retro charm. At first I was a bit upset that it was one of the many games where the save data couldn’t be transferred to my new device, but after spending a couple of days with the game again, I’m glad I got to start from scratch and unlock things a second time. It was definitely worth the effort.

Verdict: Play
Retro Highway on Google Play
Retro Highway Gearhead Games ApS, Retro Highway – Free

That wraps up another edition of the Android Games Roundup.  Check the list below for prior installments and keep on gaming!