With E3 literally days away, this particular TabletPCReview gamer thought to take a look at the current Honeycomb offerings to see which games impressed the most. Even though Apple still has Android beat in terms of the number of games, the five quality offerings bode well for the Android tablet operating system.
Gun Bros., (Glu Mobile, Free)
I’m always pleasantly surprised to come across a video game that’s as intellectually clever as it is technologically. And aside from the fact that it’s “just” another shooter game (albeit an incredibly addictive one), Gun Bros. manages to score high on the cleverness scale by injecting a healthy dose of humor into its backstory.
Case in point: The game’s heroes, Percy and Francis Gun (not their real names) are two gun-toting brothers (not real brothers) who were genetically engineered by F.R.A.G.G.E.D. (the Freakishly Rugged Advanced Genetics Galactic Enforcement Division). The mission is to obliterate T.O.O.L. (the Tyrannical Oppressors of Life), and in a total Ed Wood storyline moment, it’s revealed that the rare element both sides are fighting over is called Xplodium. It’s worth a snicker.
As for the actual gameplay, Gun Bros. delivers handily, especially for a free game, where occasional hang-ups and design failings are forgiven, sometimes even expected. But Glu Mobile has developed a game with smooth graphics that leave nothing to be desired. Your movement is directed by a virtual control stick on the left hand side of the screen, while shooting is controlled by the same on the right. There’s a bit of a learning curve here, but the responsiveness of the game makes it a minor one.
Unlike most free games where gameplay is impeded by ad placements, so far, the ads on Gun Bros. are minimal and only ever show up on the bottom of the screen while you’re in game prep mode. The majority of the ads that appear have to do with ways that you can earn War Bucks (Gun Bros. currency which can be traded in for bigger and badder weaponry and armor).
Riptide GP, (Vector Unit, $6.99)
The first thing that you should know about Riptide GP is that it’s worth every penny you pay for the $6.99 download. The fact is, a game of this quality would likely go for $50 if it were available for the average XBOX or Wii console. When you put it into that kind of perspective, it actually starts to sound pretty darn cheap.
Riptide GP is a jet ski racing game, one with an extremely high level of graphic quality. Even the background detail of surrounding buildings and structures is impeccable.
Gameplay is controlled by your tablet’s gyro, similar to holding the steering wheel of a car, and it’s incredibly responsive although at times you might find yourself turning your tablet at full left or right angles to negotiate a particularly tough turn. You can rack up “boost” by pulling off a variety of different in-air stunts (can-cans, tabletops, front/back flips, bar hop and Superman) that are accomplished by swiping your fingers across the bottom of the screen in different combinations.
There are three main play modes: Race, Hot Lap, and Championship. Difficulty levels are the standard Easy, Normal and Hard and there are 12 unique waterways that you can race through with six different craft. The more races you win and the more time you put in, the more tracks and craft are unlocked – which shouldn’t be a problem, since it’s such an addictive game.
Samurai II: Vengeance, (Madfinger Games, $4.99)
First things first. I have to admit to never having played the original Samurai game (Samurai: Way of the Warrior). That in mind, I didn’t know what to expect when coming into the experience of Samurai II: Vengeance. The good news is that if you’re like me and you’re new to it, it’s not necessary to have played the original in order to understand what’s going on in the sequel. But if you dig it as much as I did, you might kick yourself for not having discovered it sooner.
Samurai II is the perfect example of how blending genres can produce genius results. In this case, that genius is accomplished through the mixing up of manga/anime and classic hack ‘n slash games, resulting in an incredibly visually appealing and cathartic game. The graphics are positively gorgeous, and playing it on a 10-inch tablet screen makes you appreciate the artistry all the more.
Gameplay for Samurai II is presented in various chapters, each preceded by a few pages of manga art that lay out the storyline as it unfolds. Control of your character is accomplished through the use of a directional wheel on the left hand side of the screen, and mayhem and all sorts of bad-intention sword attacks are carried out by a couple of option buttons on the right. Both are responsive and easy to use, and that’s a good thing – because as far as hack ‘n slash goes, Samurai II really turns your inner demon loose. Enemies can be decapitated, eviscerated, and even split right down the middle. I haven’t had this much fun since I saw my first Takashi Miike movie.
The depth of combat and overall ease is also refreshing, although you can make things more difficult on yourself by switching between Apprentice, Samurau, and Ronin difficulty levels. Some games require you to possess hand-eye coordination skills that real life fighter pilots don’t even have just to advance to the next level, but to its credit, Samurai II lets the average mortal get away with kicking butt on a superhuman level.
Dungeon Defenders First Wave Deluxe, (Trendy Entertainment, Free)
Blending RPG with arcade action (and a dash of Ren Faire geekery thrown in for good measure), Dungeon Defenders First Wave Deluxe is a game of great potential. But as everyone knows, the word “potential” is usually the kiss of death when it comes to games. Where Dungeon Defenders is concerned, it’s a fabulous idea with great graphics that unfortunately claims ownership to a single fatal flaw that might cause first timers to bow out before even getting into the real meat of the game.
That flaw? The directional controller. I have played my fair share of tablet games and this is the first time I’ve ever actually become dizzy while trying to control the action. The problem is that the controller is way too sensitive, with the slightest movement causing the character to race around bouncing from one castle wall to another.
Moving beyond square one while reaching for the Dramamine reveals that the game itself is more than just an average shooter (or, maybe more appropriately, a magic wand pointer). Strategy plays a major role in the mastery of Dungeon Defenders, which earns it mucho bonus points for its attempt at combining the cathartic appeal of your standard, one-dimensional hack ‘n slash with the type of game that actually requires you to use brain cells.
Alas, patience is another thing that plays a major role in Dungeon Defenders. The tutorials are incredibly lengthy, menus go on forever, and in general it’s a game that’s screaming for a simplification overhaul.
Players immune to vertigo will be appropriately pleased to learn that Dungeon Defenders is primed for global play, ala World of Warcraft – yet another dimension-adding bonus for a flawed yet promising tablet game.
Bang Bang Racing THD (Playbox, $4.04)
One of the neatest looking racing games I’ve seen in a long time, Bang Bang Racing, is also one of the most frustrating gameplay experiences I’ve had in ages. For a game with sound and graphics as crisp as this, it’s enough to make me wonder if my disappointment isn’t the result of some dexterity deficit on my part – but even in Easy mode, some games shouldn’t be this tough to play.
Don’t get me wrong – I think Bang Bang Racing is just the kind of game that the Honeycomb market needs more of. It has gorgeous graphics and incredibly smooth performance that makes you forget you’re playing it on a 10-inch tablet and not sitting in front of your XBOX. My only complaint is that the directional control is a beast to master, resulting in less “race” and more “demolition derby.”
Control can be manipulated in several ways. First there’s Point control, which requires you to touch the screen ahead of your car to determine its trajectory – the further away you tap your finger, the faster you’ll go. Then there’s Split, which employs automatic acceleration and allows you to control the vehicle’s direction with left/right arrows. The Auto option still incorporates automatic acceleration, but gameplay is made a bit more complicated by throwing in a brake button. Finally there’s Full, which incorporates left/right directional arrows with acceleration and brake controls.
If you don’t mind smashing your car up and losing every race in Easy mode, then hey – you’ll probably fall in love with Bang Bang Racing simply for its aesthetic appeal. One of my qualifications for a truly great game has always been that regardless of how badly it irks you when you do poorly, you just can’t help but hit that “replay” option. In this respect, Bang Bang Racing succeeds.