Spooklands – Review

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Platform: iOS, Android
Developer: Luderia
Genre: Arena Shooter
Price: 69p/99c
Release Date: 21st Aug 2014

It goes without saying that Spooklands is a game that aims to impress. You only have to look at the screenshots to appreciate the wildly colourful visuals. In motion, things only look better. The creature design meshes cute with vicious in a fantastic juxtaposition; managing the nigh impossible task of making a heaving mass of eyes and limbs look sweet.

The high class production values certainly don’t end there though. Taking the wonderfully intuitive control scheme seen in Toast Time, Luderia have combined it with frantic arena-based combat. I have to admit that twin-stick arena shooters are starting to repeat on me; having been perfected by games like Minigore and Geometry Wars many years ago, it’s very rare for one outside of Radiangames’ production to impress me at all. Whilst it’s not the most accurate genre placement for Spooklands, it certainly stands out from the majority of games in competition with it.

It all comes down to the simplicity of movement and mechanics. You tap, you shoot. You shoot, you move. That’s mostly it beyond a hold to release a charge attack. Whilst it sounds dangerously close to being a little too basic, combining your means of attacking with your only hope to avoid damage makes for chaos. Beautiful, elegant and heart-pounding mayhem.

Words are terribly inefficient for describing the adrenaline-fueled tapping panic you’ll find yourself in as the difficulty increases steadily. Early lulls had me disappointed at the ease of success but you’ll soon learn to value those calm moments. When Hell breaks lose you’re forced to weigh up whether your shots will put you at more risk than they resolve. Whether you have the time to charge a large axe to clear a line of foes or strumming loose a flurry of smaller shots.

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To me, Spooklands is to the one-touch control method that Tilt to Live is to tilt controls. Every attack will hit its target with pinpoint accuracy and every death is your own failing. You will die a lot, your shots wavering as new and incredibly large creatures are introduced but you’ll also progress between each match. Again, much like Tilt to Live, reaching highscores unlocks new and more impressive power-ups to be collected during gameplay. Just like the shooting inertia, trying to collect them can kill you as often as they help but it exemplifies the risk/reward nature of the game.

To top it all off, there’s not a single glimpse of an IAP, not even an optional one. Social networking features are tucked away in a side-tab without ever being mentioned. No ads pop up to test your patience. Game Centre is well integrated with both leaderboards for each arena and achievements for those that way inclined. All of this is wrapped in a 99 cents price tag which seems so unusual these days for a truly premium experience.

Spooklands can be purchased for iOS here:
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/id900650495?mt=8
and Android here:
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.playluderia.spooklands

Wave Wave – Review

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Platform: iOS, Android
Developer: Thomas Janson
Genre: Twitch
Price: £1.99/$2.99 on iOS. £1.09/$1.99 on Android
Release Date: 3rd May 2014

2014 is the year brutal difficulty levels hit mainstream entertainment. Sure we had Super Hexagon, Demon Souls and I Wanna Be The Guy but they were largely one-offs and niche titles, using their difficulty as a means to differentiate themselves. Now, thanks largely to the meteoric surge in popularity of Flappy Bird, being punished with end game screens mere seconds in has become a common sight. Whether it’s down to the masochistic streak in us all being teased out or the adrenaline burst of beating your highscore hooking us like junkies, the ultra-hard twitch genre is here to stay.

Wave Wave shares a lot with Flappy Bird. It’s an unavoidable statement. Even though the beta-testing had begun long before Dong Nguyen’s hapless avian first careened into a Mario Bros-esque pipe, it will forever be compared to it. It might sound like a dark cloud hanging over Wave Wave but, if anything, it’s been a massive boon; introducing a huge audience to a game they wouldn’t look twice at. A game that would have lived on only in the halls of YouTube, fodder for Let’s Play recorders to bemuse their viewers.

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Another undeniable detail of Wave Wave is the sheer artistic beauty of the visuals. Much like Monument Valley, you could screen-capture any single moment and have a background for you computer with no effort. Crisp and bold jagged edges erupt like vicious mountains into a surreal geometric landscape, coloured in by a madman with a Crayola collection. In motion, it’s almost to the point of being distracting. Distorting flares ripple across the screen whilst it spins fast enough to make Terry Cavanagh dizzy. It’s not for those prone to motion sickness but it’s impossible to be unimpressed.

As with Super Hexagon, the soundtrack goes a long way to making the game an audiovisual delight. Grinding chiptunes merge dubstep with metal and everything in between while a soothing feminine AI will all-too-happily announce your failure. Every. Time.

The sheer amount of content included by Thomas Janson does a great job of elevating it above its ephemeral competition. Sure you can infuriate yourself with the standard mode (available in six difficulties, no less) or you can try the two variations, the Galaxy mode that introduces a whole new way to play or take on the scripted levels, which are by no means easier.

Wave Wave stands out as easily the greatest Twitch game on any platform and arguably one of the greatest mobile games of all time for me.

Wave Wave can be purchased for iOS from here:
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/wave-wave/id717990207?mt=8
and for Android here:
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.noodlecake.wavewave