Category Archives: iOS

Build-a-lot 4: Power Source HD Review – iOS

No sooner than I finally finished my European adventure in Build-a-lot 3 does G5 Entertainment release Build-A-Lot 4: Power Source. This latest installment is much more than a straight-up sequel however, as it now expands upon the original time management building model and adds the element of “power”. Not only do you need to build up your neighborhoods, you’ll also need to provide them with clean safe energy in the forms of Wind Farms, Solar Towers, and…gulp…Nuclear Reactors.

As before, you’ll still need to manage your resources for the basic building and renovations of homes but you now have to balance the various elements of power sources. If you don’t have ample power your properties may start having blackouts, and powerless renters won’t be paying their rent. You also need to consider the type of power source for the area. Wind farms are a noisy eyesore that nobody wants to live near, while solar and nuclear have their own issues.

But it’s not all about providing enough power. You’ll also find a whole new set of energy efficient upgrades for your properties that, when installed, will lower your overall energy demands. Naturally, this all falls into the various challenges the game puts upon you in the types of buildings you’ll need to build in each zone as well as providing for new entertainment options such sports centers or movie theaters.

Build-A-Lot 4: Power Source is quite large with the casual and campaign modes with four unique campaigns that encompass 68 increasingly challenging levels. The visuals are the same quality as the previous game although you now have new structures and tweaked animations for all the activities. Likewise, all the fun construction sounds are back along with some pleasant background music.

I was totally expecting more of the same with this sequel, but I was truly impressed and surprised with just how much the addition of the whole power element really added to the overall experience in Build-A-Lot 4: Power Source. It really changes the way you play the entire game, forcing you to think and approach each scenario with much more strategy than before. And even though it is a bit more challenging than the last game, it is still great fun for the entire family.

Dark Arcana: The Carnival HD Review – iOS

Dark Arcana: The Carnival HD is the latest in the long line of HOA games from G5 Entertainment, so if you have played any of the others then you likely know what to expect, great graphics, cool background music, and various puzzles that will have you scouring ever pixel on your iPad for various items concealed in the complex backgrounds.

Dark Arcana: The Carnival has a rather sinister theme about it. Personally, carnivals are creepy enough already but when you throw in this supernatural twist along with some truly diabolical graphics and uncomfortable settings, this was one of the few iPad games to have me squirming in my seat. You’ll play as a detective in search of a mother who mysteriously vanishes into a mirror when she takes her daughter to the carnival.

The game does a great job of creating unique locations and puzzles that are all themed after the carnival element as well as specific amusements you’d find on the boardwalk. Early on, you will gain the invaluable assistance of a monkey who can help you during your investigation.

As always, the puzzles include both finding objects in the background as well as assembling key items to solve more elaborate puzzles. The hidden objects aren’t terribly difficult to find, but if you are having trouble or just want to ease the eye strain you can play a card-matching game that will earn you the same objects you could have found otherwise. It’s very similar to the Mahjong game from Nightmares from the Deep that did the same thing. Another great feature borrowed from Nightmares is the inclusion of a map that outlines the carnival and places that need visiting, and limits random wandering and needless backtracking.

Dark Arcana: The Carnival HD looks amazing on the iPad with full retina support. The backgrounds were so incredibly detail I never had need to use the zoom function to find anything. The combination of colors and detail created a unique blend of magical enchantment and supernatural evil that was quite unique, and the eerie soundtrack and sinister sound effects always kept me on the edge of my seat.

These games are nothing without a good story and The Carnival has a great one that will keep you glued to your iPad until it’s over, and with three modes, Casual, Advanced, and Expert, you can tailor the game to your own experience level. Expect 4-5 hours of chilling gameplay, although once finished you likely won’t return anytime soon. Even so, Dark Arcana: The Carnival HD is one of the best HOA games I’ve played this year.

Epic Adventures: Cursed Onboard HD Review – iOS

Epic Adventures: Cursed Onboard is another HOA game that G5 Entertainment is using to bolster their library that is already bursting at the seams with these cookie-cutter knockoffs, and while some of these titles stand out as truly innovative and fun, sadly, this isn’t one of those times. If anything, this game felt more like another of their uninspired adventures, La Jangada; a lot of puzzles held together with a paper-thin plot and poor presentation.

You’ll play Melissa Alan; a detective trying to solve a mystery from the 1970’s involving a family that vanished on a cruise up the Amazon River. Things start off well enough with a suitably interesting story and setup for the adventure at hand, and even the first few visuals manage to suck you in, but once you get past that first puzzle the game starts sinking fast. This game was obviously developed overseas and suffers from numerous translation problems similar to those found in La Jangada. While these could have been avoided by using silhouettes or some visual hint, trying to understand exactly what you are looking for becomes this game’s greatest challenge and ultimate failure.

Once the story slips into the background you are left with 90% hidden-object puzzles, which only exasperates the translations issues. And when you combine that with the amount of puzzles that have you searching the same uninspired (and even ugly) backgrounds over and over for different items, you’ll find your finger sliding over to the hint button more often than you’d like. Even when the game tries to throw in some random non-hidden-object puzzles it fails miserably. Combination puzzles are merely tedious trial and error affairs and other puzzles that require special objects to complete will remove those items from your inventory after their initial use, but since many of these objects are required for multiple puzzles you’ll have to replay levels to reacquire the item.

With broken puzzles, poor graphics, and a story that slips into obscurity an hour into the game only to resurface for the anti-climactic ending, this is one adventure not worth taking. It lacks any of the key elements required by the HOA genre, and when the game is so boring and mediocre that you merely want to tap the hint button to get through it, only to be disappointed by the end… well, let’s just say that Epic Adventures: Cursed Onboard HD is far from epic and not much of an adventure. Save your money and buy just about anything else in the G5 library.

Green Jelly HD Review – iOS

One of my favorite mobile puzzle games of all time is Cut the Rope, so when G5 sent me a review code for Green Jelly HD and promised that it was “a lot like that game” I was understandably excited. I promptly downloaded and started playing and it wouldn’t be for at least 60+ minutes later that I even looked up from my iPad. Green Jelly HD is so darn cute and so much fun that it truly is the impossible game to put down.

The premise is simple. You are a block of green jelly that looks like a sickly Sponge Bob minus the square pants. There are three pieces of candy on each screen that serve as your level score and also as a means to unlock new levels in the Chocolate and Waffles zone, but only the best puzzle gamers will ever reach the Waffle levels – the game is just that challenging. So using the touch screen you can drag from the Green Jelly dude and attach to various pegs around the level. This allows you to swing and even slingshot yourself to new heights. Some levels require you to make Angry Birds-style leaps of faith to arc over obstacles or pass through candies you can’t get otherwise then quickly attach yourself to a new peg before you fall off the bottom of the screen or land in a hazard. Collect the three candies (or as many as you can) then exit via the door in the candy house.

Hazards start off simple enough, but as you get further into the game the spiked balls increase in number and always seem to be in the path to your candy. But as wires and lasers get added to the list of dangers, your own bag of tricks increases with new ways to navigate the levels, but you are always going to need fast resources and a good eye for geometry and reactionary physics. The early levels ramp up nicely in difficulty but about the time you hit the Chocolate levels things start to get seriously difficult, and while you don’t need all three candies to advance, you’ll likely have to revisit some levels to add any missing candy to unlock the final levels in the game.

There are 60 levels in the core game with more levels coming in future expansions. With scaling difficulty and more than 10 types of objects to interact with, and 20 amusing achievements to strive for, Green Jelly HD is a game you won’t be putting away anytime soon. The graphics are charming and colorful with great elastic animations and the sound and music fits with the sugary sweet gameplay.

Green Jelly HD is by far one of the best surprises from G5 Entertainment this year. I normally expect another installment in their ongoing HOA games, so when they come up with something as original and delightful as this fantastic puzzler I can’t help but give this my wholehearted recommendation. Green Jelly HD is one sweet game!

Pilot Brothers HD Review – iOS

The Pilot Brothers have not only been around longer than Professor Layton, the Russian duo have had logged considerably more hours solving various mysterious and puzzles dating back to the 90’s. The characters were originally created for a cartoon series in the 80’s then made their way into Soviet gaming, but this is the first time American audiences get to experience the quirky pair of inept gumshoes.

Pilot Brothers is a rather short game made longer by some troublesome controls and frustrating gameplay. It seems an elephant has gone missing from the local zoo and you need to find it by investigating clues and interacting with people and possible suspects in 15 unique locations. While the missing elephant carries the overall story, each scene has its own mini-agenda, and once you exhaust all the clues and conversation in that area you advance to the next. Some of the scenes are very short, often only requiring 2-3 steps to complete, and assuming you can get past the broken interface, you can likely finish the entire game in 2-3 hours.

As is typical with most adventures, you’ll find plenty of puzzles that need to be solved, and while many of these are amusing and even logical at times, others seem to be so off-the-wall you’ll either need some radical thinking or a walkthrough to ever figure them out. Thankfully, G5 offers both a hint button and a video solution option, each with a cool down timer to prevent too much abuse, should you get terribly stuck on any one puzzle. The hint button is annoying in that is shows you all possible interactions on a given scene – even the ones you have already completed.

But even clever outside-the-box thinking won’t help you overcome the troublesome controls that mostly involve imprecise character selection, response, and position based on where you tap the screen. And with some interactions measured by mere pixels, the game can prove extremely frustrating when you think you are where you need to be but are off by just a fraction. This could have all been fixed with a pinch-zoom feature. Some puzzles also require the use of one character versus the other, but these choices have no logical reasons, so it is merely more trial and error to extend an already short game.

As far as presentation, the art style is, shall we say, unique. They are definitely going more for style than to showcase your iPad’s graphics capabilities, but the visuals do exude their own unique and quirky charm. The sound mix is horrible in that the music drowns out the dialogue, and with no mixing options you’ll be forced to turn the music off entirely if you want to hear Chief and Colleague speak.

I was really hoping to like Pilot Brothers, not just because it was a much-welcomed departure from the weekly installment of HOA games, but because it looked to provide an original graphics style and a cool buddy-cop element with a fun mystery to solve. Sadly, at the end of the day, the only mystery is why and how did this Cold War Soviet relic ever get released on the iPad.

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