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Comprehensive Reviews

Random Selections: The Blacksmith Games Edition

Rating 4.33 out of 5
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Okay, I come before you defeated.  You’d think with Saturday being the one day a week that I almost always don’t have any obligations, it would have been the perfect day for getting this segment done and posted.  Sadly, that has turned out not to be the case for the most part.  As a result, I’ve decided to rename the segment “Random Selections”.  Not sure if this will be permanent, but at least it’s not day dependent!  Anyway, on to the regularly scheduled game discussion…

This week I thought I’d take a look at the first two releases from Blacksmith games.  They are two very different games, and both take a somewhat original approach to their subject matter.  Plushed is a fairly straightforward platform game, but it takes place in a land where cute bunnies wield swords and fugus like creatures love pizza.  Boostball is a soccer game where you actually control the ball, and you simply have to keep traveling down the field as long as you can.  Two very different games for different gaming needs.

Plushed

If you’ve played any platform game as far back as Super Mario Bros. you already have a feel for how Plushed is going to play out.  It’s old school all the way, and that’s just fine with me.  Where Plushed differs from many of its contemporaries, however, is in atmosphere and pizza.  Intrigued yet?  I know I would be.

The game’s hero is a stuffed rabbit that has come to life and must save its owner, who has been whisked away to some far off castle in the pages of a storybook.  To give you a taste of the fantasy world, in the first few levels you team up with an all knowing and somewhat sarcastic sword, you travel through the guts of more than one snake, and you fight a character named Little Red by… well, I had to figure that one out, so I’ll let you do the same.  For the most part the mechanics are standard – run using arrow keys, jump by tapping the screen.  There are several occasions where you facilitate actions by shaking the screen.  I’m not a fan of having to shake my device, and while sometimes cleverly implemented in Plushed it can also be annoying, but I always applaud the developer for trying to integrate iDevice specific features.

Like An Odd Little Puppy...

Then there’s the pizza.  Apparently this is a delicacy in the lands of Plushed, and you’ll find it all over the place.  It can be used to trick creatures into opening their mouths or coming out of their holes, and more importantly it can be used to convince pizza eaters – odd creatures that are bouncy when filled with pizza – to follow you and provide you with vertical jumping prowess.  In order to use the pizza you must first pick it up, and then drag it around the screen to lure your targets around.  There are times where you can also acquire perfume pizza which has about the same effect but doesn’t require the drag and drop activity.

The graphics are the highlight of the game.  The characters are wonderfully drawn, and the animation is pretty decent.  It’s hard to despise anyone in this game, though, because even the evil critters are for the most part cute.  The backgrounds are nicely detailed as well, though for the most part they are pretty static.  The sound effects are actually fairly interesting, with each creature having its own utterances.  You get the feeling that the developers actually took the time to make this a world that would stand out from the typical fare you find on the iPhone.  The music is well written and there are several different tracks throughout the game, so you shouldn’t get bored listening to the tunes.

There may not be anything overly new here in terms of mechanics – but the again, depending on what you’re used to there may be – but some nice level design combined with a bright, colorful atmosphere and quirky characters make Plushed a journey worth taking.  There aren’t tons of choices when it comes platform games on the iPhone anyway, so when a good one comes along you owe it to yourself to check it out.

Final Verdict: Recommended
App Store Link

Boostball

A lot of soccer games have been released in conjunction with the proceedings of the World Cup, and Boostball is no exception.  The funny thing is that this is probably the farthest thing from a true soccer game that you’re going to find in the collection on the App Store.  The game is just a soccer ball (you) against a bunch of opponents, some that are stationary and others moving back and forth.  Periodically you will reach a milestone of going through a “net” which is really just a gate that pops up every so often.

To move the ball you tilt the device left and right.  Your ball will continually lose speed, but you can keep boosting it back up by running over arrows that are littered on the playing field.  Occasionally you can pick up fire, which lets you temporarily run over any opponents.  There are also coins you can pick up along the way to increase your score.  This all takes place in Tournament mode, and there’s also a training mode where you have to pass the soccer ball through sets of cones instead of running it around opponents.  This mode is actually a bit more challenging, especially when the cones start moving.

That’s all there is to the game, which is fine for Training mode.  Tournament mode could use some more power ups, however, both positive and negative.  Some ideas would be freezing the opponents, making them move faster, or causing them to grow or shrink.  You could even use the coins to by power ups when you reach a gate.

The visual style is simple yet quite appealing.  The field is just a green strip with white lines marking the boundaries and arrows and a row of national flags lining each side.  The opponents are rectangular objects with the front side illustrated to look like a person.  The expressions on their faces are great, though sadly not animated.  There really isn’t much in the way of special effects except a few particles when you’re “on fire” or when there’s a coin on the screen.

The sound effects are fine but fairly limited.  It would be nice if the opponents taunted you when you hit them.  Maybe each visual style of opponent could have a different little catch phrase.  The music is pretty decent, and I like how it changes when you’re “on fire”.

This is one of those games that walk a fine line for me.  My initial gut instinct was to give it an “On The Fence” because of it’s limited options and repetitive nature.  At the same time, every time I go to play a game I can’t seem to just play once.  Even the simplest games deserve some credit if they can draw you in for multiple plays at the same time.  So…

Final Verdict: Recommended
App Store Link

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