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Mobile games review roundup

Escape Rosecliff Island (iPad/iPhone)

Despite belonging in large part to the simplistic hidden item genre, Escape Rosecliff Island has some compelling traits.

The storyline is sparse, setting up a mysterious island that you have to escape from (as per the title). From the first moment of gameplay the attractive backdrops win you over while the ambient noises swirl around the dreamy musical score to produce a trance like gaming experience. Scanning a ruined tree house at night as it creaks eerily in the wind looking for a baseball bat, a set of handcuffs and a tin of sardines is not how I would go about escaping a deserted island but logic and sense are not this games priorities.

Interspersed between the hidden objects sections are simplistic puzzles ranging from Bejewelled-style item matching to rotating-block jigsaws. Its all very gentle and channels the best quiet, reflective moments of Myst.

While many mobile games find their raison d’être to be quick bursts of gameplay on public transport, Rosecliff is different. I found myself Rosecliff in the wee hours of the morning; allowing the sleepy, stress free gameplay to pull me into a contented stupor. A game that makes you fall asleep then, but in the best possible way.

6 hidden kittens out of 10

Plants vs Zombies (iPad/iPhone)

Telling a bunch of gamers that Plants vs Zombies is great is a little like telling Zombies that brains taste good or explaining the wonders of the sun to a flower. Popcap’s superhit is so successful no one platform can hold it, I’m sure somewhere, someone has it running on a graphics calculator. Despite this I only recently got round to playing this masterpiece of minimalistic, compulsive gaming candy.

For the few uninitiaited souls, the game is in the tower defence mould and sees waves of slow moving, hungry zombies lurch from the evil right-hand side of the screen towards the questionable saftey of the suburban residence on the left. The only line of defence? Aggressive, zombie destroying plants of course! Wait, what?

The cartoon presentation  and charming, chunky visuals are at home on almost any platform and the reviewed iPhone version is clear and playable even on the small screen. The full size iPad version is the best choice overall. Its a decent price and so easy to pick up and play you’ll find yourself reaching for it on journeys, in meetings and hidden under a table during dull conversations.

The game starts easy but difficulty and complexity ramps up as it progresses and the initial, sedate pace becomes somewhat more frenetic as the levels progress. Gameplay revolves around placing appropriate attacking and defensive plants in the best positions with some serving as barricades for the horde while others on the back line fire projectiles with varying levels of damage and status effect. The difficulty comes from specialist enemy types such as pole vaulting zombies that can bypass barriers to attack the vulnerable back line. Other enemy types are simply tougher, sustaining far more damage before finally (literally) losing their heads.

The campaign stays fresh by constantly offering new enemy and plants types, but the sheer number of choices of offensive plants can make it hard to choose the right ones. It allows a players choices to be wide and offers a lot of freedom in how each mission can be accomplished, but the constant introductions of new types can make the game feel like your constantly playing the tutorial levels.

Despite these minor criticisms, Plants vs Zombies is the perfect example of why casual games can appeal to hardcore gamers who are always leaning towards looking for what games pays real money too. Conceptually original, easy to learn and with considerable depth, its a must play, no matter what platform you choose to play it on. I’d be willing to bet they could even make a compelling board game out of it. What…they have?!?

8 pole-vaulting zombies out of 10

Review coming soon?
Published inReviews