Friday, February 20, 2015

Shall We Do It? (BATTRIX, Drop Wizard, rainblocks, Tumbledrop and Zoo Keeper DX)

You may remember how, in this recently published post, I said of the iOS puzzler, rainblocks: I'm not sure it's something I'll return to all that often.

Fast forward to today, just over a week later, and although I can't prove it, I'm pretty sure rainblocks--which was made by Eric Koziol--is now my most-played iOS game.

So, what's changed in the meantime? I don't really know, to be honest--well, other than I think my brain went on a walkabout during my initial experience with it, which prompted me to assume it was some sort of endless (or nearly so) puzzle game, like the Tokoton mode of the Zoo Keeper series.

In reality, it's a decidedly timed affair, with the result being that rainblocks feels like a mad-dash, try-to-beat-your-high-score kind of title--which is right up my alley, especially if it's stuck inside a portable device.

One aspect of this iOS game that I've always liked is its art style. It's very simple, but also very clean, colorful, consistent and even "classy," if that makes sense. In fact, I dare say it reminds me of something Nintendo or one of its second-party developers would have made during the GameBoy Advance era to fill the gaps between its heavy hitters.

As for the other games mentioned in this post's header, if I were to line them up based on how much time I've spent with them in the last week or so, I'd probably go with: BATTRIXZoo Keeper DX, Drop Wizard and then Tumbledrop.

I don't suppose you're up for taking in some of my thoughts on all of these lovely iOS games (and they truly are lovely, each and every one of them)? If so, please keep reading.

BATTRIX--This bite-sized RPG was made by the wizards at Opus Studio, who also brought the world the Half-Minute Hero games and Jikandia: The Timeless Land, which of course means it features some stunning spritework.

There's more to it than that, though--which probably won't shock anyone who's experienced any of the afore-mentioned PSP titles. This is most evident in BATTRIX's gameplay "hook," which tasks players with exposing its map one tile at a time. (You begin the game standing on a single, solitary tile, and nearly every step you take away from it reveals previously hidden areas and battle-able enemies.)

The idea is a perfect fit for the medium, and a lot of fun to boot. Also a perfect fit for the medium: the controls used in BATTRIX's battle scenes, which of course are intuitively touched-based and which also feature fast, frequent and intriguing weapon changes.

Drop Wizard

Drop Wizard--This was my first iOS game, and it's sure to remain one of my favorites for some time to come. The graphics here are absolutely adorable--and right up there with the best of the single-screen platformer genre, if you ask me.

The gameplay's great, too, in that it wisely considers and keeps in mind the iOS platform's weaknesses (generally unresponsive digital controls being the main one, of course) without letting them hamper the action at hand.

As for what all that nonsensical blather means for the end-user (me and you): instead of focusing on fast-paced leaps and twitchy, last-millisecond responses à la most other single-screen platformers, Drop Wizard focuses on strategy. Which is a good, as all you're able to do in this game, control-wise, is move your adorably behatted protagonist left and right. (Yes, that means there's no jump or other action button.)

I'm sure that sounds more than a bit nuts, but in reality it's brilliantly refreshing.

Zoo Keeper DX
Tumbledrop--Despite this game's title, it's nothing like the wonderful Bubble Bobble clone--or, rather, Snow Bros. clone--called Tumble Pop. That's disappointing at first, or at least it was for me, but it's doubtful you'll feel that way for long, as Tumbledrop's gameplay wastes little time in differentiating itself from any other title you're likely to compare it to.

So, what's Tumbledrop's gameplay like? I guess you could say it's a physics-based puzzler. Actually, it's kind of like Jenga, that block-balancing tabletop game that everybody's become obsessed with at one point or another. Only Tumbledrop is a lot more visually interesting, what with its on-point use of pastels as well as its bricks and blocks and stars that grin like non-creepy Kewpie dolls.

Anyway, it's a lot of fun, and it's no pushover (pun not entirely intended), which always is a good thing, in my opinion. In fact, I've only made it through a few screens so far thanks to its general toughness. Still, I hope I can make it a bit further before I stick a fork in it and move on to some other technicolor iOS title.

Zoo Keeper DX--If you've played some version of Zoo Keeper over the years, you've pretty much played them all. In the case of almost any other series, I'd say that's a bad thing, but these bright, animal-themed puzzlers are such a blast to play that I can't bring myself to do it.

One somewhat negative thing I will say about the iOS iteration of Zoo Keeper is that it's a bit lacking when it comes to modes and options--there are just three of the latter, as far as I can tell, and one of them is an online battle mode I'm unlikely to use.

Other than that fairly minor quibble (especially given Zoo Keeper DX's cheap asking price), though, this one's a ... well, it's a keeper, as that old--and appropriate--cliché goes.

See also: previous 'Shall We Do It?' posts


RetroKingSimon said...

I've been hoping Drop Wizard gets released on Android, I really want to play that one :) said...

I can understand that, Simon! I know the devs have talked about considering it, but I don't know if that means such a version will be released :(

Neutronized said...

Hey, very happy you enjoyed Drop Wizard. Unfortunately we haven't planned an Android release yet. Thanks for the highlight ^^

RetroKingSimon said...

Probably not and that means I and many other will never get to play it, sadly :(

TheGameroomBlitz said...

How do you play a Bubble Bobble game with only two buttons...?

Er, uh, never mind. I did download Rainblocks out of curiosity and although I usually hate sliding tile games with a burning passion, this one held my attention for a while. The fact that there's only nine squares instead of sixteen really helps. You only get frustrated when annoyances like Time Downs, Locks, and Mud come into play.

TheGameroomBlitz said...

What's your minimum spec for this game? I've thought about picking up an iPod Touch for shiggles, but Apple does a pretty good job of forcing users to stay up to date with the hardware. With Android you can lag behind a few years.

Neutronized said...

Game runs fine on the iPod Touch, it's been tested on both 4th and 5th gen.. said...

Keep your fingers crossed, Simon! said...

You're very welcome! And thanks again for the review code. I very much appreciate it. (Also, this isn't the last I'll have to say about the game!) said...

That's where the strategy comes into play, Simon. All you can do is move to the right and left. Each stage has a hole at the bottom and top, just like Bubble Bobble, so you can drop through the bottom and end up at the top. Also, your character shoots a star every time you drop from one level to the next (and you can direct this star by pushing left or right). So, you have to use quite a bit of strategy to take out all of a stage's enemies and successfully complete a stage.

As for rainblocks, I'm glad you enjoyed it--at least kind of :) My favorite thing about it, I think, is that there's a pretty strict time limit. Too many matching puzzle games have time limits that are too long, in my opinion, which makes them feel interminable. I like the time downs and such, too, as they add some real challenge to the proceedings.

Justin Difazzio said...

I downloaded Beattrix without even finishing reading your review. That's how much I loved what you had to say about it. I went on to download Tumbledrop, too. And, just because I've never played one, I got Zookeeper, too. Did you see that the iOS store has Zookeeper Battle, as well? Not sure what that's about. said...

Ah, that’s great, Justin! You’ll have to tell me what you think of all of these games—BATTRIX especially—after you’ve had a chance to play them. I was too busy snapping photos, writing blog posts and doing other work this past weekend to put any additional time into them myself, but I hope to get back to at least a couple of them soon…

Oh, and, yes, I definitely saw Zoo Keeper Battle (or Zookeeper Battle—why do they insist on gluing “zoo” and keeper” together in the titles of these
games?) on the iOS App Store, but I passed on it because I believe it’s
online-only—as in, all you can do is battle others on line, which isn’t really
my cup of tea.

TheGameroomBlitz said...

Er, that's Simon over there. (motions to the British guy) said...

Er, sorry, Jess. I replied to this while at work, where I was a bit frazzled today. Doh!

Justin Difazzio said...

I zipped through the free levels Tumbledrop had to offer. Fun, but I wouldn't pay for it.

Zoo Keeper is fun for a bit. Without more modes, as you said, it's probably lacking something.

BATTRIX, however, is brilliant. I love the weapon leveling and the cute little enemies. I can see it's going to be one of those games that's a grind-or-pay sort of thing, which is sad, since it's a great concept. said...

Thanks for your early impressions, Justin! I really like BATTRIX, too. I can't say how long the love will last, of course, but for now I'm enjoying it in fits and starts.