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Quick Reviews from the Request Desk – 7.30.11
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This week’s installment has us checking out a new spin on an old game, a quirky puzzler, a dual-stick shooter, and a buggy (in a good way) RTS-style game. Check ‘em out!

CurveBot

CurveBot is elpixo’s stylish 3D take on the old Qix gameplay mechanic that requires you to draw lines that successively whittle a gameboard down to a small percentage of its original size. Usually this game is played in a 2D format with straight lines and very little liveliness. Curvebot remedies this by offering quirky level designs, enemy AI that hunts you down, and a cute robot who cuts swooping curvy lines through a 3D world. There is a button in each of the lower corners that you use to direct CurveBot’s movements to the left or right, while tapping on both simultaneously will initiate a cut or activate a boost power if you have one. There are fiery pots placed around the levels that must remain within the board’s borders while you hack away at the surrounding areas. A cut is complete when it goes from one edge of the board to another.

The game quickly introduces drones that seek you out, extinguishing your line by crossing it or eliminating your multiplier by running into CurveBot. They start off pretty tame and usually find themselves eliminated by getting caught in an eliminated game board section. It doesn’t take long before they get feisty and downright difficult as the game wears on. It doesn’t help that the uncontrollable camera angles give you very limited scope. There are also special coins that grant you temporary powers, like freezing drones or unlimited boost. There are 10 sections with 6 levels in each. You are required to eliminate 80% of each board to move on to the next. Once a section is completed, you are given an objective to try to achieve, like using 12 cuts or less to complete a whole section or averaging 90% elimination. These tasks give the game some nice replay value, as does the GameCenter integration for global leaderboards and achievements. The fact that this is no way to actually lose a board reduces the challenge, though earning 5 stars for a section and racking up huge scores will take some solid strategy and quick thinking. The visuals are crisp and clean, the animations are rock solid, and the soundtrack has a nice arcade vibe. In all, CurveBot is a fun game that hits the casual mark on its head. A universal app for $1.99, CurveBot is a charming 4-Dimple experience.

Qvoid

Qvoid is a challenging puzzler from Gavina Games where you roll a white cube around a gridded area, matching colors picked up from one location and transferring them to another. The gridded area is usually small, requiring precise movements and outside-of-the-box thinking to keep your move count at a minimum and avoid getting hopelessly stuck. There are 96 levels to enjoy, and the difficulty ramps up at a good pace. You swipe on-screen in the direction that you want the cube to move. When a cube face rolls over a colored tile, the color is transferred from the floor to the tile face. This creates a restriction whereby the newly-colored tile face can only touch the floor again on its matching colored surface. Multiple colors can be picked up on the same cube, provided they are on different faces. The movement restrictions add a great level of strategy, as does the goal of matching the developer’s move count to earn 3 stars for a level. Latter levels challenge you by requiring colors to be mixed, utilizing temporary drop zones for releasing a colored cell and picking it up on another cube face, introducing dynamic level tiles, and more.

The game’s Retina Display 3D graphics are clean and clear, and the smallish level sizes allow for a tightly pulled-in view. Colors are easily distinguishable and animations are fluid. If a move is not possible, the cube will start to tip and then fall back into place. The soundtrack is decent (if you like Muzak), but it can get a little annoying after a while. The controls are responsive and easy to use, as swipes register with ease and two-finger swipes rotate the board for a look at all cube sides. There is an undo button that will take you back to the start one move at a time, making it easy to correct a simple mistake without having to hit the restart button, which is also an option. Replay value is present in the form of honing your move counts in order to snag all available stars, which are necessary to open up locked levels. Additionally, GameCenter integration brings leaderboards and achievements into play for additional challenges. A universal app at $1.99, Qvoid is a pleasant addition to the puzzle genre and a solid 4.5-Dimple offering.

The First Attempt

The First Attempt is an aptly-named top-down dual-stick shooter from Wish Studio. The First Attempt really does feel like its name. It’s an unpolished, not-nearly-ready-for-primetime offering that causes way more frustration than it should. For starters, the controls are not smooth, despite using a joypad to walk/run. The aim/fire button is buggy, working only when it feels like it. It feels more like an 8-direction pad that makes precise aiming a chore. It doesn’t help that most bullets seem to miss the enemies anyway. Reloading is handled automatically, with no option to manually reload. This leads to encounters with enemies where you have only a bullet or two left to fire. You then wait for a lengthy reload as you are getting shot up. Your health reloads over time, but it does so fairly slowly, while enemy fire rips large chunks of your health away. The balancing isn’t quite right. Dying doesn’t even give you the satisfaction of watching your character crumple to the ground or anything. It simply hits the player with a jarring menu asking you to restart or go to the main menu.

It looks like explosives were added as a way to spice up the game, requiring you to tap a button at barriers to blow them open. However, this feels more cumbersome and awkward than simply walking through a doorway or opening a door. It’s not organic and the resulting explosion doesn’t have any affect on your health, either. Environmental objects get in the way often, such as trees that obscure your view. Loading times are ridiculously lengthy, too. It’s a game that has a lot of potential, but it feels like it missed the entire alpha/beta testing process. Graphics are fair and the sound isn’t terrible, but it has a long way to go if it wants to challenge other games for valuable space on your iDevices. Overpriced for what it currently offers at $2.99, The First Attempt is a nice start that doesn’t execute in the end, mustering only a 2.5-Dimple rating.

Ant Raid

Ant Raid is Prank Ltd.’s charming take on insect battles using castle defense techniques and light RTS elements. When a harmful poison turns all creatures but the ants into zombies and mutated versions of their former selves, the ants must stand united to protect their home and each other from the resulting invasions. There are 3 game modes to enjoy: a 60-level Story mode, a Survival mode featuring 4 endless levels, and a 40-level Challenge mode. The latter modes are locked until you complete the Story mode. Over the course of play, the difficulty ramps up gradually and the game does a nice job of introducing new elements one-by-one. In most cases, you have your group of ants spread out around your home, be it an old boot or a melon or some such item. Bugs will come at you from off-screen. Tapping a section of bugs will create a small grouping that can be directed toward the intruder. Your ants will hammer away at the enemy until he’s defeated, then return to home. Any ants hurt in the raid can be healed by sending ants back out to bring them home and replenish their health. Tapping and holding on ants will create a larger grouping to attack bigger bugs or tend to larger mass casualty situations. Most levels become a balancing act of appropriating the right number of resources to attacking, retrieving, and defending.

Once the game is in full swing, you’ll fight bugs that possess colored energy that can be absorbed by your ants once the enemy has been defeated. Red energy gives a speed boost while blue energy makes them invincible for a short time. Combining the two energies creates a gold energy that is very powerful. Additionally, the gamer can earn a “Hand of God”-type whack-a-mole power that allows him to tap enemy bugs to destroy them, rather than send ants out to defeat them. Mis-tapping will cause earthquakes, though, so you’ll need to have nimble fingers to accomplish the task. Each level allows you to earn up to 3 stars based on your performance. The graphics are high quality, showing a lot of polish and attention to detail. The bug animations look terrific, and creatures of importance (enemies, injured ants) have a highlighted outline to make them stand out. The backgrounds vary from stage to stage and look terrific. We’ve found ourselves distracted a time or two by the terrific visuals while waiting for enemies to appear. The audio is very nice, too, with a catchy soundtrack and cute bug voices to add a little extra charm. Controls are pretty easy to grasp, requiring mostly taps and holds to handle business. You can pan around the level by dragging your finger, but there’s little need to do so.

Replay value is high, with the ability to replay levels to earn missing stars, multiple endless levels, and a good number of challenges to complete. GameCenter integration for global leaderboards and nearly 4 dozen achievements to earn will keep you coming back for more, too. Ant Raid is an iPad-only offering, a nice value at $2.99, and a solid 4.5-Dimple stud.

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