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Comprehensive Reviews

Saturday Specials: The 99 cent Smorgasbord

Rating 4.00 out of 5
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I’m probably setting myself up for failure here, but I’m going to try a new feature called Saturday Specials.  The idea is that each Saturday I’ll bring you a group of reviews that are what Quick Looks were originally intended to be: simple 1-2 paragraph synopses of some of the games I’ve been playing.  Sometimes there will be a theme to the games, sometimes there won’t.  This will use the same grading scale as Quick Looks – Recommended, On The Fence and Not Recommended.  Hopefully this will give me the opportunity to spread the news on more entertainment with overburdening myself or over-boring you!  Without further ado, here’s the first segment, entitled:

The 99 cent Smorgasbord

This group of titles has nothing to do with each other except for the fact that I picked them all up for 99 cents.  Now, I know you’re thinking “aren’t pretty much all games 99 cents?”  True, but at least one of these was just that price for the sake of a sale.  Speaking of which, our first game is…

Cake Mania 3

I played Cake Mania and its expansion on the Palm, I played Cake Mania on my DS, and now I’m playing Cake Mania 3 on my iPhone.  The irony is that aside from visual face lifts and a few added amenities, the games are virtually the same from one outing to the next.  That doesn’t seem to matter to me, however, as I sat down to play two or three days (in game time) just for the sake of playing and now find myself having almost completed the first of 5 story arcs.  For those who haven’t sampled the goodness, the basic idea is that you run a series of bakeries, and each day you have a target amount of money to earn by baking cakes and making customers happy.  The keys to winning are making smart choices about what to upgrade and learning how to handle certain customer types (make sure you serve the more impatient ones first).  One thing I appreciate about the iPhone version of Cake Mania – that I actually thought at first would annoy me – is that when you click certain items like the oven or frosting machine you get an enlarged version of the object.  This makes it easier to select the right cake to bake or frosting color to use.

This Cake Is Done!

This Cake Is Done!

Graphically I think Cake Mania 3 is the best yet in the series.  The characters are much more interesting this time around, and I’ve only visited the first time zone.  You’ll encounter everyone from the hunchback to Napoleon, and their facial expressions as they get impatient are wonderful.  Each person even has their own type of money bag that they leave.  Aside from the sounds / voices that go with the characters themselves, which of course are new to match the diverse range of characters, all the other effects sound like they are recycled from previous games.  That’s okay, though, because they still work well and help the atmosphere come to life.  The music is decent but inconsequential, as things are so hectic in the later levels you’ll notice the music is there but won’t really be listening to it.  Now if you’ll excuse me, Napoleon is waiting impatiently for his heart shaped cake with plaid frosting.

Final Verdict: Recommended
App Store Link

Catacombs

When I saw the video of this game, which is basically a modernized Gauntlet, I knew it was going on my list of games to have.  When I saw that it was being released for 99 cents, it was an immediate purchase.  I’m not disappointed at all.  You can choose between a warrior, wizard and archer, each of which has a slightly different main attack in terms of speed and strength, and each of which has their own special attack.  The base game comes with 24 levels of dungeon crawling fun, and there is also an in-app purchase that will give you an extra 24 levels of frolicking (I mean slaying) in the forest.  Catacombs uses the dual stick method of one control for moving and another for attacking, both allowing 360 degrees of freedom.  The controls suit this type of game quite well.  I’m a bit sad that they chose to go with limited reuse bad guy spawners (in Gauntlet the spawners wouldn’t stop churning out nasties until you destroyed them), but I’m thankful that they also left out the ability to accidentally shoot food and treasure.  Overall they’ve done a great job in recreating one of the original and still one of the best mindless hack-n-slash games.

Did We Interrupt Your Dinner?

Did We Interrupt Your Dinner?

Graphically, Catacombs is quite nice.  The creatures look really good, and your characters aren’t actually too shabby, which is a hard thing to do in a top down perspective game.  There are plenty of details all around, whether it’s a glowing torch on the wall, cracks in the floor or a table complete with tablecloth and settings for an obviously disrupted dinner party.  The sound effects are nothing special, but they all serve their purpose and nothing sounds out of place.  And at least each of the creatures makes a different noise when you’re inflicting pain upon it.  The music sounds good and has a bit of an epic feel to it.  In general Catacombs is an fun game that’s easy to get into, but I definitely recommend it if you’re an old-schooler who enjoys the likes of Gauntlet and other such games.

Final Verdict: Recommended
App Store Link

Devil Invasion

There are two major ways to vary a successful style of game and make it your own: change the theme or alter the mechanics.  Devil Invasion does a bit of both to create a goofy yet likeable game.  This is a castle defense game, but you defend your castle by playing match 3.  It’s been done before, but so far I think this is my favorite interpretation.  The premise appears to be that some weird alien like creatures are invading your territory, and you must stop them.  Along the way you can buy and upgrade skills to help in your attack, and the skills get powered by matching certain colored gems on the board.  There are also attack tiles that will do direct damage when matched, and money tiles that will earn you gold to buy skills.  The main down side is that you can only earn gold by matching money tiles, so you have to make sure that in your haste to slay monsters you’re also trying to gather some loot.  As monsters get tougher and attack in larger quantities you’re going to want some strong skills.  The match 3 board also uses hexagons instead of squares, which is a nice change of pace.

It's Fire Time!

It's Fire Time!

The graphics are really good, though some might argue in a quirky sort of way.  Visually it almost feels like the game should be called Doodle Devil Invasion.  That would probably sound a bit childish, though.  Unfortunately you don’t get too much time to admire the varied array of creatures as you’ll be spending most of your time staring at the match 3 board.  That looks pretty good too, by the way.  I do like how they render a tag above the playing field with a small animation when either you’re casting a spell or a critter has let loose the final blow to one of your towers.  The sound effects are good and the creatures all sound different, which is definitely a plus.  Even if you can’t watch the attack you know what’s happening by the sounds.  The music is also very well done.  Devil Invasion is very polished aesthetically.

Final Verdict: Recommended
App Store Link

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this Saturday’s summary of some of what I’ve been playing this week.  Next week we’ll take a look at some of the lesser known Chillingo / Clickgamer titles.

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