GGF#72: 4 more iPad game reviews

Gamer Girl Friday

 

In a great show of unpredictability, I am once again publishing two issues of GGF in a week.

Exciting times with exciting games call for very excited gamer bloggers who show a blatant disregard for convention, ceaselessly publishing random mini reviews of games they haven’t even finished playing in their entireties.

That’s me. (In case you’re not getting my self-disparaging humour. In which case you probably don’t know what self-disparaging means. In which case never mind.)

But forget all that for a bit. Let’s talk about games!

 

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Puzzle Agent HD (US$6.99)

Puzzle Agent HD

 

You know a game is good when, just one minute into the game, you’re already dreading the end. Puzzle Agent, a puzzle adventure game in the style of Professor Layton and Jim and Frank Mysteries, impresses right from the start.

The dialogue is witty and sarcastic, often raising quiet chuckles. The voice acting is top-notch, fleshing out the personalities of each character satisfactorily. The music and sound effects are worthy of Hollywood A-list scores. The plot is intriguing and not insulting to the intelligence like the aforementioned games. The grungy comic drawing intensifies the surreal and suspenseful atmosphere as it drives the plot along.

Yet, the game is not without its shortcomings.

You play as Agent Tethers, an FBI agent from the Department of Puzzles Research (which, by itself, offers quite a few joke opportunities). You’re sent to the boondocks to reopen an eraser factory that has been mysteriously shut down. The President of the United States needs erasers to fix his mistakes.

So you solve puzzles along the way to get to the bottom of the main mystery (why the factory shut down). The puzzles are good. There are downright easy ones and there are challenging ones I couldn’t solve without invoking a few hints, although some of that could be attributed to the failure of the game to provide succinct clues.

Some of the clues could be interpreted in different ways, or don’t make sense immediately, thus resulting in numerous possible answers. This makes the gameplay frustrating because you can’t get perfect scores when the rules don’t make sense.

Worse, you get long instructions on separate pages from the puzzles, forcing you to flip back and forth between pages to refer to instructions or clues.

Then, to add a cherry bomb on top of all that, the puzzles do not have a notes feature like in Professor Layton and Jim and Frank. You can’t make notes on the screen and have to work everything out in your head. Not very friendly for visually-inclined people.

 

Puzzle Agent HD

 

Still, those are shortcomings I can live with, although I hope to see improvements in the next installments. You get the feeling that a sequel is in the works because this particular adventure doesn’t wrap up nicely. By the end the game when your superior congratulates you on a job well done, you still haven’t solved one big mystery.

I guess I have mixed feelings about this game.

If I could compartmentalise my brain, which I did in order to enjoy the game, I would say I got a few pleasurable hours enjoying the story, the drawings, the voice acting, the humour and most of the puzzles.

 

Puzzle Agent HD

 

There are only 37 puzzles in the game (I might have missed out some but that’s not too likely because I was very thorough in my search for the optional puzzles hidden in the environment.) That, together with the lack of a satisfactory ending, makes the US$6.99 price tag very unsatisfactory.

On the other hand, I would pay that amount again just to enjoy the drawings and dialogue, although the game could be bigger. There were many more spots drawn on the map that gives the impression that it would be a longer game but the game ends before you even get to see them. It’ll take three to six hours to complete the game, depending on your play style.

Like I said, mixed feelings. But the bottom line is that I don’t regret buying it and would buy it again given a choice.

 

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Success Story HD (US$4.99)

Success Story HD

 

I keep telling myself to stop buying time management games but, for some reason, I keep buying them. Success Story is a bit different from the other titles I’ve played (Are You Alright, Supermarket Mania and Airport Mania). It doesn’t require you to send your toon zipping off in six directions at once, so it’s not as frustrating.

All you have to do is make burgers. If your customer wants a cheeseburger, you tap a meat patty, then a slice of cheese, and you’re done. Of course, it gets tougher and tougher. Between serving burgers, you’re servings desserts but those are easy. Just tap all desserts that pop out onto the screen. I think they’re there to distract you from your burger-making.

It’s addictive, but I think it can be cheaper. Success Story has about 46 stages but the stages last shorter than other time management games. And the background story is rather idiotic. About humans vs. robots in the service industry and sabotage. It’s very similar to Supermarket Mania. I don’t think they’re made by the same people, though.

Success Story is a good game to train your reflexes and it’s quite fun, although it feels a bit repetitive after a while, even if the stages get tougher. The “upgrades” aren’t as exciting as those in other time management games.

If I had to choose again, I would only buy it under US$2.99.

 

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The Mystery of the Crystal Portal (US$2.99 till Sep 13 | US$4.99 Usual)

The Mystery of the Crystal Portal

 

I love this game, although I’m annoyed at having paid US$4.99 for it and finding it on sale shortly after.

It seems like more hidden objects adventure games are being made these days, which is good because I enjoy them. Crystal Portal is less adventure and more hidden objects, although it’s a fresh spin on the hidden objects genre.

You’re shown grayscale pictures of the objects you’re supposed to find, instead of words. And you must search for them in groups. Successfully finding each group of objects unlocks more groups till you find the final key object in that zone to move the story along.

That’s pretty fun, but the game forces a lot of random tapping because you’re not always told which objects will open up a group that shows the objects you must find. Also, previously inactive objects secretly become active after you complete certain groups, so you must keep tapping the same stuff over and over again to see if they become active.

That’s a major flaw in the game design that can be overcome by giving the player more visible clues of which objects are the “group indicators”, so to speak.

But the graphics is lovely and objects get animated once you complete a group, which is just cosmetic but adds to the experience.

There are six different maps. Completing one map gives you a challenging (and fun) puzzle to solve. The game could be longer, though. There’s only about three hours of gameplay. But it’s enjoyable, all the same, if you can forgive the need for random tapping.

 

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Millionaire Tycoon (US$0.99 Sale US$5.99 Usual)

Millionaire Tycoon

 

This is a board game which combines Monopoly with sabotage elements. I bought it for my iPhone more than a year ago and stopped playing it until recently when Nanny Wen discovered it on my iPad. (The game is optimised for both devices.)

Watching her play it made me want to play it again, so I bought two more expansions at US$0.99 each.

The original game comes with four game boards while each expansion has three new ones each. But the gameplay is basically the same for all. The differences are the cities and the size of the boards. (Singapore is available in the second expansion!)

You walk around a board buying property, taxing or being taxed as you land on each other’s properties. Many items can be bought to control the game or sabotage your opponents, such as forcing someone’s property to go on auction, or putting arrows on the board to force opponents to walk towards your expensive hotels.

There are many little surprises in the game which makes every game different, therefore infinitely replayable.

The Goonfather says Millionaire Tycoon is the English version of 大富翁, which is a Chinese imitation of Monopoly. It’s highly fun, therefore highly recommended!

 

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Yes, I caved in and bought seven more games this week alone depsite saying last week that I won’t buy anymore games this month. What can I do? The developers just won’t stop making games.

I still have three more games in the wings I bought but haven’t tried out yet.

I guess Gamer Girl Friday is going to remain a dedicated iPad games reviewer for some time to come, until something more exciting comes along.