Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Game reviews: Party Wave Free and Blade Guardian for Iphone

Life is kinda cool sometimes. Sometime ago, I sent a private Twitter message to Mistwalker, the game development company formed by Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, on Twitter asking if Sakaguchi would be interested in doing an interview for the blog. By some twist of fate, I had been casually talking to the very nice man who runs the companies' Twitter account for some time prior to this, and I was feeling pretty confident so I thought why not. Of course in reality I didn't think that anything would come of it. Game developers are just as busy as anyone and I'm not a professional game journalist, I'm just a fan. But asking a question never hurt anybody. And while I hope that said interview will happen someday, today is not that day. Anyway, last night I got a private message on Twitter from Mistwalker asking if I would be interested in reviewing two of their upcoming releases on the Iphone: Blade Guardian, and the free version of their previous Iphone game Party Wave.  For those of you living in a five mile radiance of my house, I must apologize for waking you with my fanboy squeal of delight at 4:30 in the morning. Anyway, I said yes, they sent me the means to get the games and now we're here. I'm mostly gonna focus on how the games are played (beyond tapping the screen I mean), so I'm going to try and be as neutral as I can be. Lets start with the newest game, Blade Guardian.


To begin with, this is a tower defense game , a sub spices of  the real-time strategy genre. Anyone familiar with games like StarCraft will understand the concept immediately. Tower defense games are basically games like, boiled down to their most basic components. You're placed on a space and you have to defend your base from waves upon waves of aliens while simultaneously trying to out maneuver them and destroy their base. Now normally when I talk about a game, I would take some time to explain the plot first, but Blade Guardian doesn't have one. If this was any platform other than a smart phone that would be a strike against it. But as it is, it doesn't matter, because 90% of the best games on the Iphone don't have plots either and they're still a blast to play (see Angry Birds). So this game is all about gameplay, not story.

Anyway, here's an example of what a level looks like:

Just when a fence would be most useful.
The bottom of the screen is self explanatory, it tells you how many waves you have to fight off, how much abuse your base can take, your score, the pause button ect. The '+' and '-' icons in the top right are for zooming in and out, which can help out sometimes. The "G" icon on the top left displays how much gold you've acquired, and that's an important part of the game. You get gold by killing enemies, the bigger the enemy the more gold you get, makes sense. And a bonus amount of gold is awarded after each level depending your score. What you use the gold for is obvious. You buy weapons and pieces of wall which you can string together to slow the enemy down and change his direction. The weapons are your standard laser cannons, a catapult that hurls bombs at groups of enemies, a...thing (I don't know what) that spits acid, and your standard machine gun turrets that come by the dozen. The idea is to place each weapon along the wall you build at strategic points so that you can get the most kills and get more gold to upgrade your weapons to more powerful versions. This what I like, because the game doesn't reward you for blindly charging in with guns blazing, you have to slow down and think of how to outflank the enemy. Its like a game of chess. Sadly you can't pen Aliens into a single area and pick them off, which can be a little annoying. But doing that would've made it too easy. Not that it matters, because more enemies are constantly coming out of their base (that weird purple tube thing) and later on they can come at you from all sides thanks to tunnels that dot the level. Its easy to get surround you if your not careful. As the game advances, tougher aliens appear that take forever to die. So the only quick way to advance is to destroy the alien base and the tunnels. 
The Blade Guardian 

Which brigs me to the next point: how do you destroy the enemy base anyway? The guns along the walls can't do it, so how? Simple, a Blade Guardian (see left). When in play, these things will automatically make their way to the alien base or the nearest tunnel and destroy it. It will also attack any enemy that it comes across. And just like the other weapons, they can be upgraded to more powerful forms if you have enough gold. They even have a ball form, which they call a "Sphere Blade," that runs things over, which is kinda cool. It just too bad that its a pain in the butt to control. You have to physically tilt the Iphone (or whatever your using) in the direction you want it too move. Most of the time though, it just does whatever the heck it wants and it ends up falling uselessly off the board. So it really takes some time to get use too.  But that's just one portion of the headache the mechs cause, because getting them on the board is not as self explanatory as you might think. This screenshot explains it:

Yeah, this thing appears at random and you gotta attack a metal octopus to free it. Freeing it also drains your gold which can get you killed. Thankfully your normal weapons can damage the octopus, but they take forever. And the mechs blow up after destroying a tunnel or a base, which is kind of annoying. I still haven't figured out how to upgrade these things either. Maybe there's something I'm missing, but when I tap the unit and hit what I think is the upgrade icon, I end up turning into the Sphere Blade and rolling off the board. Why couldn't they be two separate icons? Or better yet, why couldn't I just buy and upgrade the mechs from my base? Why do I gotta destroy a metal octopus? But admittedly, that's more of a personal complaint than any real flaw with the game. Because otherwise, this game is a blast, check it out when it comes out. 


Next up is the free version of Party Wave, its an imaginative action surfing game with cute aliens. I haven't played the paid version (which came out some time before), at least not yet. But so far as I can tell both versions are pretty much identical. Except that the free version is basically a glorified demo and not a full game. But even for a demo, I gotta say, this game is even more fun than Blade Guardian. Thanks to its cartoony look and simplistic gameplay. There's no plot to this one either so lets just hop on in. To win each section of the game, you have to direct a group of surfers to a foaming white line in the water and wait for a wave. But the way to the line is full sea creatures and you  gotta maneuver around or they will knock you off  your board and you'll lose a life. There are stationary hazards too, like small islands and clams, but these are relatively easy to avoid. Anyway, after a set time, the wave will come weather the whole group is there or not, so you have to take your time in a hurry. Once on the wave, well you'll have to surf it by guiding the surfers with your finger, if they touch the bottom of the wave or get off their board you lose. When riding the wave, you can do sorts of tricks for points. But you also gotta dodge hazards both above and below the water like Jellyfish, seagulls jumping dolphins and other sea creatures. Even the aliens:

If you hit the Alien's while surfing, you'll get extra points, but they are moving all over the place so you really gotta aim for'em. So much stuff happens on the screen, if you don't pay attention you get wiped out.  But anyway, the graphics are nice and colorful, the music is cheery and really adds to the happy mood. My only real complaint is that the controls can be kind of stiff and it is kind of hard to move to the foamy line. The characters just move along at a jerky pace and the game doesn't let you do any sharp movements, not until you're surfing anyway. But this can be forgiven, because this game is fun and just has a charm that makes you smile.

In closing. Both of these games are great additions to your Iphone, Ipod touch or Ipad and are well worth buying. If you're interested: then the paid version of Party Wave is available now on the Itune's app store for $1.99. But if you want to wait for the free version, well you won't have to wait long. Both Party Wave Free and Blade Guardian are set to be released on the same day, October 1st, on the Itunes app store. I think that Android users will begetting Party Wave on October 1st as well, but I can't confirm that so please don't quote me. I haven't heard anything about Blade Guardian coming to the Android though, but "never say never" as they say.

And with that I'm out. A big thanks to Mistwalker for giving me this opportunity to review these games, and Thanks to Hironobu Sakaguchi and his team for making them, stay awesome guys ^_^.
All the pictures and video clips in this post are copyrighted 2012 by Mistwalker Corporation and were used with permission.         

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