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Quick Reviews from the Request Desk – 9.2.11
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This week, we look at a turn-based multiplayer battle, a unique tower defense game, a physics-based soccer match, and a turn-based strategy game. Let’s check them out!

Jelly Wars

Jelly Wars is an online multiplayer turn-based battle between two players in the style of Worms or one of the many tank varieties that populate the genre. It pits two gelatinous globs, one red and one blue, against each other in a number of destructible environments. The goal is to kill the other blob, either by inflicting enough damage to take his life meter down to zero or forcing him into the water or off-screen. Matches are played in a best-of-3 style, with the winner gaining points to improve his standing within Star Arcade‘s social gaming network, which is used to handle the cross-platform matchmaking. Signing up for an account is relatively quick and pain-free, though it would have been preferred to use GameCenter or one of the other popular services where most people are already registered.

Each turn allows you to select one of three options: propel yourself to another location, fire a normal jelly bomb that will ricochet off of structures before settling and exploding, or fire a stick jelly bomb that will adhere to the first thing it touches before exploding. Bombs are fired slingshot-style, with a small guide line to indicate power and direction. If the resulting blast is close enough to your foe, he’ll take damage. The environments are made up of various blocks that are destroyed based on the number of explosions that they endure. Destroying the environment can open up sight lines to barrage your enemy, force him to fall into a crevice that renders his attacking abilities moot, or even drop him to the surface below with the aim of getting him into the water. Battles play out quickly and are a lot of fun. Matchmaking was fast, too. The graphics are clean and polished, animations are smooth, and audio is clear. Controls are decent, though it’s difficult to estimate where your shots will end up and we suffered the occasional misfire that often led to disastrous results. In all, Jelly Wars is a worthwhile competitor in this crowded genre. A universal app for $0.99, Jelly Wars is a solid 4-Dimple pick-up.

4Towers Onslaught: Episodic TD

4Towers Onslaught: Episodic TD is a fixed-path tower defense game released by LambdaMu Games that differentiates itself from the stiff competition by allowing tower pairing, which increases the power and effectiveness of their attacks. There are 28 levels in the campaign, with 4 main tower types that can be placed upon specific grid squares. Some locations allow you to link tower types together, aiding in the destruction of the 13 types of creeps that will stream at you over the course of the game. Each type of creep has its own attributes and special abilities, and each level ends with a boss battle, too. Red towers are used as basic attack towers, while blue towers are used to slow the approaching hordes. Green towers cause splash damage and purple towers are used to target specific creeps. It can be challenging to learn what each of the pairings does and how best to deploy them, but you’ll eventually get used to the ins and outs. You have your own health bar that represents your life. Health is reduced over time and, more significantly, by the amount of remaining health of any creeps that make it through to the end. Completing a level earns bio-matter that can be used to purchase equipment that will improve your tower abilities, too, which will come in handy in latter stages.

The graphics have a subdued neon look that pops against the dark background. Animations are very smooth and the creep shapes are differentiated enough to tell them apart at a quick glance. The sound track has an industrial/ethereal feel to it, fitting the game well and providing enhancement to the gameplay. Controls are tap-based, requiring you to tap on a location to bring up the tower selection chart. Tapping on a tower places it. Tapping the placed tower allows you to recycle/sell to free up space and recover funds to purchase something else. Tapping the upgrade button increases its abilities. You can tap on the wave indicator to start instantly the next wave, and tapping the fast-forward button allows you to speed up gameplay. Three levels of difficulty give you the ability to tailor the game to your skills, too. Open Feint and GameCenter integration provide leaderboards and more than 4 dozen achievements for added replay value. 4Towers is a 4-Dimple universal app that will set you back $1.99.

RAMPage Soccer

RAMPage Soccer is a quirky soccer game from Ruma Studios that feels like it draws plenty of inspiration from Crossfire, the old pellet-shooting, disc-spinning board game. In RAMPage, a soccer ball is flung onto a field where two players (you and an AI or human opponent) must fling smaller balls onto the field to induce collisions that will ultimately knock the soccer ball into either of the end goals. Each end of the field is marked with a series of holes from which the smaller balls are propelled. Tapping the holes or swiping across them will fire balls onto the playing area. You have a limited number of balls that can be used at any given time, replenished as balls fall out of play. There are three levels of difficulty which bring about stronger AI and faster gameplay. Each difficulty level has a set number of goals that must be scored to win the game. If the timer runs out, the player with more goals is declared the winner. It’s frantic and fun.

There is an additional Penalty Shootout mode that gives you a single ball to defend against a single soccer ball being propelled toward your goal. Use your ball to knock the other off-course, scoring points for the distance from the goal that you contact the ball. Knocking it back into the opposite goal also scores points. Give up 3 goals and the game ends, leaving you with a high score to challenge others on the leaderboards. While there isn’t a ton of content, what is included is well-implemented. The graphics are crisp and clean, and the physics are good, resulting in balls that react realistically. Animations are smooth and the framerate holds up even with nearly 3 dozen objects ricocheting around the field.  The audio is terrific, with foot-stomping music and crowds that react to the gameplay, getting louder as the ball dances around the goal line and groaning disappointedly when it gets knocked away. Controls are tap/swipe-based, offering an intuitive and responsive method of interacting with the game. GameCenter integration brings global leaderboards and achievements to earn. An iPad-only offering for $1.99, RAMPage Soccer is an exciting 4-Dimple challenge.

Volcano Island

Volcano Island is a strategic turn-based game from Little Shop of Adventures where the goal is to get all of the stranded people off of the island before the volcano erupts. Of course, this task would be a little easier if there weren’t sharks and octopi hanging out along the shoreline. It would be similarly helpful if all of the islanders could swim, too, since the nearby ships are the desired safe location. There are 5 islands to play, each with geographic attributes that require you to alter your strategy.  Each island contains 3 levels of play as well. On your turn, you are allowed a certain number of moves. Each time a person goes from one hex to another, it counts as a move. This is a bit of a clumsy process on the iPhone, though a magnifier helps to mitigate these difficulties.  Non-swimmers must be helped through the water by swimmers, and people and boats are under constant threat of maritime creatures. If you lose 3 people in the first level, 2 in the next, or a single person in the last, you lose the game. Little by little, island squares also disappear, forcing you to relocate people while leading others to safety. Life boats and helicopters factor in later and allow multiple people to be moved at once. Crumbling portions of the island shore also pose a constant threat to the people, much like the sharks and octopi who move 1 hex per turn. Unfortunately, no matter how many times we attempt to play, the challenge and enjoyment that are promised seem to elude us. Despite being huge strategy game fans, Volcano Island just fails to register as a compelling offering.

Graphically, the game has a decent look, with hexes utilizing basic colors with little detail. From your top-down perspective, you can see objects and people sparsely scattered about, though it’s difficult to differentiate people from objects on the smaller iPhone screen and moving them around is a chore. The life preservers above the heads of non-swimmers are especially difficult to see. Relevant info is contained at the screen bottom. There is an island-themed soundtrack during gameplay, but it fades out rather quickly, leaving us with little audio other than occasional sound effects which aren’t all that thrilling. The controls use taps and drags to move islanders about. While the controls work pretty well on the iPad, the iPhone suffers a bit from its smaller, more cramped size. Local high scores are maintained, but there is no other social gaming network integration to speak of, reducing its replay value. At $0.99 for either the standard or HD version, Volcano Island is a ho-hum 3-Dimple affair.

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