Crystal reign is the first game from new Dundee based studio Criss Cross Games and published by Hunted Cow. The game is a target based shooting game and is, quite literally, a tower defence in that you defend a tower from waves of enemies. The main crux of the game is this: shoot enemies of various types that are attacking your tower and collect the crystals that they leave behind. You collect the crystals by touching them use them to repair your tower sections or purchase new ones. As your get further into the game you can use different sections and weapons on the tower. These range from a simple one shot ballista, protective movable shields and split shot cannons. Each has its strengths and weaknesses against the various types of enemies you will encounter. The targeting is very much in the vein of angry birds – touch and pull back on the weapon to aim and let go to shoot – but they have refined it to a much more fluid and accurate system. With the weapons so close to your fingertips it feels that the only thing causing you to miss a target would be your slow fingers.
Crystal Reign’s gameplay is rather simplistic; successfully defeat a wave of enemies and everything ramps up. You get more enemies who move faster and shoot more bullets. As formulaic as the gameplay is do not be mistaken into thinking that the game will not be entertaining, you will experience countless hours fly by as you progress through the levels.
Crystal Reign is very pleasing for a first time game; the artwork is eye catching and colourful, the animations are smooth and the game runs perfectly. The sound is also well done with the narration being well acted and the background music having a medieval feel to it which fits the aesthetic of the game perfectly. Overall, Crystal Reign is a fantastic first outing from a new studio and most impressive. While it is not exactly the most innovative or original game in the world, it does contain various improvements on tried and tested game mechanics. It is also a solid foundation for Criss Cross Games to build their empire on and I for one look forward to seeing what this young studio have to show us next.
Crystal Reign is available right now on the Apple App Store for £1.49 / $1.99
3.5 dropped crystals out of 5
Ancient Battle: Alexander (ABA) is the next in the Ancient Battles series of games from the Scottish studio Hunted Cow and it delivers more hex based strategy goodness for iOS platforms.
In ABA you take control of Alexander the Great’s armies in some of the biggest battles of his march across the world. Making use of such units as Macedonian Phalangites, Greek Hoplites, Indian Elephants, Scythed Chariots, Persian Cavalry, Catapults, Archers, & much more, all with their own attack and move range for planning your best attacks
Outwith the tutorial there are three campaigns you can take on. The first is set in and around Greece and Macedonia, the second has you taking on the might of the Persian empire while dealing with a Spartan uprising back home at the same time, and the third is Alexanders push into India and has an epic battle with the Indian elephant army that is just plain awesome to play.
There have been some major upgrades compared to the previous Ancient Battle games, including AI upgrades, better logic, and a more in-depth combat overview and analysis. The result is a slicker game that allows you to plan better strategy and see where you went wrong when you do lose a game.
Gameplay is the same standard hex based battle system used in the other Ancient Battle games. With flanking, unit movement and attack range playing a big factor in the way you plan out your moves. I found the AI to react a lot to what I was doing by making counter flanking moves. The game will be easy for those with any history in this style of game, and not hard to pick up and learn for new players. If you like strategy of any kind, from tabletop to pc and beyond, then this game is worth picking up to while away hours on your iPad.
I personally lost a good few hours of sleep after being beat and reworking my attack and defence stance for some of the later missions in each campaign, and was rewarded with a full sense of accomplishment when beating a stand-off with elephants.
The game offers a lot of bang for your buck at only $2/£1.49. There are countless hours of gameplay to be had for more than a fair price and with iCloud saves being added in an update soon you can keep playing your game across multiple iOS devices. All in all, another solid showing from Hunted Cow.
4.5 Spartans riding elephants out of 5
Paul and Kevin get hands on with the iPad release of Hearthstone
Hearthstone has been released from the PC and has finally come to iPad but how does this mobile version stack up to the PC counterpart. Firstly you will not notice much of a difference, some minor UI changes to deal with touch screen instead of mouse. Graphically the game is the same, although you will notice a difference if you have been playing on a high end PC until now. Your account transfers so you need not worry. You can take your full deck with you on the move as well. So you’ll be able to continue beating your friends while on a bus or train, making their humiliation that much worse.
The upsides are the game is the exact same. Board modes look exactly as you would expect from Hearthstone and its extremely polished, as is expected of Blizzard. With that being said, on my iPad Mini Retina, it does crash and bug out a fair bit. Up to the point of me losing matches and therefore rank stars due to the game crashing. you also feel a little bit of slowdown, if you try and play the game as fast as you normally would on PC version. With it feeling like its trying to catch up to your actions as you do them. This is especially true with games involving Nozdormu or a lot of play on the field. For example, if you intend on comboing maybe 3 or 4 cards together it’s going to have a hard time keeping up.
I’m not the only one seeing this. If you look on blizzard’s forums, or on your favourite social media outlet, you see lots of the same complaints. I would suspect this will be patched and fixed soon before the new single player expansion / update Curse of Naxxramas. Which is coming later this year.
Adding 30 new cards and 5 dungeons to battle though. The first being free and the other 4 at a cost. The new cards are guaranteed to add more to the already deep meta and card building of the game. This is what may take Blizzard longer, as they try to bleed new cards into the game. Personally, I love the way they are doing this. They’re not just throwing cards in and saying “buy these”, there’s an additional layer of content. Hopefully, this will be playable offline when you’re on the tube with your iPad.
There’s no denying Hearthstone is the latest big thing, everyone you talk to knows what it is and more and more people are trying it out. The iPad version just made it far more accessible to a bigger audience and despite the small bugs, that we know will be fixed in time, it shot to the number one app on iPad within a day. It’s made a game that already had the gamer population addicted far less easy to put down. I have found my hour long commute to be far too small, and when you add toilet breaks into the equation, you’re more than occupied!.
Blizzard are also doing meetups for the game, now called fireside gatherings, encouraging groups of 5 to 100+ to get together in book stores, coffee shops or conventions to play together. Even giving a new card back to those who do this. Actively making players seek out face to face games and combat in the style of a non digital card game is a master stroke. Will we see Hearthstone groups start to meet in the way, magic or table top ones do? Only time will tell. It certainly has the scope for huge tournaments without the hassle of bringing your whole collection to the event!
Coupled with android and windows phone versions, which have already been confirmed, Hearthstone is undoubtedly in the running to become one of the most popular free to play games worldwide. It’s a beautiful equation that Blizzard have compiled. Take one pinch of gaming heritage, add mechanics that are easy to learn but deep enough to keep pros busy, a very reasonable business model, simple yet informative UI and enough polish to see your face shine and they’ll be taking the world by storm.
A lot of fans groaned when Hearthstone was first announced and it goes a long way to show that Blizzard know games. They know when’s best to enter a market, they know how to bleed it dry and they know how to make solid titles.
3.5 Murlocs out of 5