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Review – Pokemon Magikarp Jump (Android, iOS)

The Good

  • Charming visuals and art work
  • Magikarp
  • Magikarp

The Bad

  • Very repetitive game play
  • Weird overpriced Microtransaction Model
  • Shallow Gameplay

In Depth

Pokemon Go isn’t the only mobile Pokemon Experience available on mobile, Pokemon Magikarp Jump is a much more traditional mobile game with all of the usual caveats that come along with that.  At it’s core, Magikarp Jump is just your traditional old school Tomagotchi only with Pokemon.  You fish up a Magikarp, you feed it food and train it, and then take it off to compete in a Jumping contest against AI Magikarp opponents.  That’s 100% of the extend of the game.

The best part of this whole game is the art and animation.  It’s repetitive yes, but it all looks really great.  There are several dozen Pokemon that show up in the game aside from Magikarps, all of them rendered in this recognizable cutesy art style.

The more you play the more coin rewards you get which allows you to upgrade the various foods and training courses.  There are also Diamonds which are this games Premium currency, which can be used to unlock Friend Pokemon and decorations for your Magikarp tank.  The friendly Pokemon offer time based rewards such as bonus experience (JP or Jump Power) or extra coins.  The Decorations offer passive bonuses such as a blanked percentage bonus to coins or JP.  This offers up some variety of ways to raise your Magikarp.  The Premium currency can be purchased for real money but it also can be earned, slowly, by simply playing the game. After training, and league matches, you often encounter random events, some of which drop diamonds, others bonus exp and gold.

There is choice, and not really a lot of choice.  To keep things moving, you really need to keep upgrading food and training, which means needing gold, which pretty much steers all upgrades into getting more gold.  Spending a few hundred hard to get Diamonds for 2 extra food isn’t really as useful as spending the same amount for a bonus to gold drops or even just a boost to the experience food gives.

The whole system is of course, also designed on a sliding scale, so you get stronger, but you never really feel like you are getting “better”.  The leagues (all ten of them) all play out essentially at the same pace until you reach Level 100 Magikarps.  Every match is the same and entirely dependent on having more experience than your opponent, which is a fixed amount.  The only real way to make things move faster is to drop real world money.

Which brings up some weirdness.  There is a spending limit, built in, it’s something like $50 ever.  I suppose it’s to prevent kids from blowing hundreds on the game, except the entire point of this business model is to be sustained by “whales” IE the people who spend hundreds of dollars, to make up for those trudging through at the Free pace.  Spending $50 also gives you the Diamond Miner, which grants 100 free Diamonds per day, which pretty much enables all of the unlocks to be purchased many orders of magnitude faster than playing for Free.  the amount of Diamonds you get on basic purchases is also pretty low, enough to buy maybe 1 item.  Essentially the only reason to buy in, is for the Diamond Miner.

The problem here is, game doesn’t have anywhere near $50 worth of game play.  I get that some people will feel it does, but speaking for the idea of the vast majority, it doesn’t.  You don’t do anything interactive at all side from tapping food and pressing OK a lot.  Maybe, MAYBE if the Training rounds were actual mini games and you maybe some extra taps or something to help jump more in League battles and just in general if there was SOMETHING besides being a time waster to the game.  There isn’t though, and as it stands, being a time waster is ok, but it’s not really $50 ok.  I’m all for supporting developers, and I’d gladly throw $5-$10 at this game for the time I’ve spent on it and the enjoyable art and animation.

After you reach level 100 you can keep training Magikarps to higher and higher experience to see how high you can get your Magikarp to jump.  There’s no direct player vs player aspect but connecting to Facebook lets you see how your friends are ranking.

Don’t get me wrong on the negatives, the game is pretty fun as a Tomagotchi time waster, it just feels like there are some odd choices in the pay model and the gameplay itself just, completely lacks any real depth.  I have enjoyed the game a lot.  I’ve played all the way through to Level 100, which, takes months, just as a heads up, but it’s more than doable.  It just gets old after a while.

 

Review – Super Mario Run (Android, iOS)

The Good

  • Solid Mario style Game on Mobile
  • Smooth graphics and Gameplay
  • Fun Gameplay in some modes

The Bad

  • Regular price is too high ($10)
  • Repetitive Gameplay
  • Toad Rally is Lame

In Depth

Nintendo is slowly making their way to mobile with a few of their flagship series, namely Pokemon and Super Mario Brothers.  They still aren’t putting out straight ports of the classics yet, but hopefully they will come around.  Hopefully when they do they don’t flub it and overprice everything the way Square has done with it’s Final Fantasy ports.  Mario’s first mobile foray is Super Mario Run, on Android and iOS.

Super Mario Run is a combination of quick repeatable mobile gameplay and classic Mario gameplay.  The overall feel and look is similar to the New Super Mario Brothers games, 2D side scrolling with 3D objects and sprites.  The main catch is that Mario is always moving to the right.  The game is designed to be played with one hand, and your only real control is to tap to jump.  It’s not really an endless runner, but it sort of plays like one.  The game is divided up into several levels and game modes, Tour, which is the standard single player campaign, Toad Rally, which is an online competitive game, and the new Remix 10, which is short bursts of very short levels.

There is also a Kingdom Builder mode which ties everything together and sort of serves as the purpose and end goal to every other mode.  As you gather Toads to your kingdom, your castle will level up to return to it’s former glory.  You also will gain new buildings to unlock and build in the kingdom and the ability to expand into other areas, increasing the size of your build space.  It’s neat, but serves no real purpose.  The toads will dance around the buildings but they are mostly decorative and placing a bunch of statues has the same effect as placing a bunch of Toad houses.  There are a handful of buildings which can be used to unlock simple mini games to gain Toad Rally Tickets, but they are in the minority of buildings you will unlock.  This mode is also limited a bit in how many spaces are available to build on.  This can be a little frustrating since it will very often mean choosing what you want to build too often and you’ll end up with a large bank fo unused buildings by simply not having room.

You primarily gather Toads by playing Toad Rally.  This is also my biggest gripe with this game.  Toad Rally is incredibly tedious.  You sort of play against other players, but it’s not real time.  It’s also not clear if it’s an actual play through of that player either, since often the ghosts will be different each round.  Most of these Toad Rallies are decided by whomever manages to get a Star power up as well, making most rounds one sided at one point.  The number of Toad Rally courses isn’t particularly varied and some stages are extra annoying to play such as Ghost houses, which require a lot of downtime waiting for Boos and looping through the same screen or the Airship levels, which usually result in a lot of deaths due to the constant pits between platforms and the unpredictability of cannons and enemies.  This exacerbates the tedium of these levels because even when you win the round, the scores are so low you will only earn a small handful of Toads of the corresponding color.  So, for example, you’ll get to play a LOT of repetitive Ghost House levels in order to get anywhere in collecting Purple Toads.

The new mode, Remix-10 is the new primary way to unlock items for your Kingdom, and it’s the closest mode to an Endless runner game that there is.  It gets a little old but I find it to be the most fun of the various modes.  You play through ten very short, maybe 10-20 second levels of varying types in a row each session.  Even if you die on a segment, you just move on to the next segment.  The only real objective is you pass ten levels, even if you die on all ten, though along the way you collect Rainbow Coins which unlock special bonus items.  You also get an item after each segment of ten.  In general, the mode is very generous with item drops.   The problem ends up being the one mentioned previously, where you run out of room.  Unlocking more space means building bridges, which means collecting a TON of Toads in the lame Toad Rally.

The last major mode is the Tour Mode.  This is the more traditional single player game.  There are 6 regular worlds, each with 4 levels each (3 normal and a castle/Airship).  After finishing the main run you unlock the Star World which consists of 9 levels unlocked by completing special tasks.  Playing Tour serves several purposes.  Completing tour unlocks Princess Peach as a playable character.  Completing worlds adds more variety to the playable levels in Toad Rally.  You also have the opportunity in each level to collect 5 special coins which often require tricky moves and techniques.

There are certainly a lot of opportunities here for Classic Mobile Game Micro transactions.  The Toad Rally tickets is the most obvious choice, special buyable items would certainly be another.  Thankfully, Super Mario Run has no micro transactions.  It’s Free to Play, but it’s more like a Shareware title.  The only thing you can purchase is the full game unlock.  You can play the first three levels and Toad Rally for free, but to get more, you’ll need to pay up.  This brings up the other big downside to this title.  It’s fun, there’s quite a bit to do, it’s not really $10 fun.  There is a sale going on (as of this review) that may come back again some time, for half off.  At five dollars, the game feels really worth it.  Everything is just too repetitive for $10.  You can buy full on Mario games for $10, or a lot of other games with more game play.  Maybe if Toad Rally were less tedious making the Kingdom Builder more robust and less limited, it would be worth more, maybe.

Review – Metroid: Zero Mission (GBA)

After wrapping up the remake of Metroid II with Metroid: Samus Returns, it seemed like a good idea to look back a bit on Metroid Zero Mission, the remake of the original Metroid put out for the Game Boy Advanced.

Previous to Metroid Zero I had just finished Metroid Classic, the GBA remake of the NES game. The best part of the Classics series is that they are pretty true to the original titles. I’ve previously played bits and pieces of Metroid but the sheer massive randomness of this game has always kept me away. Also it’s “really hard”. Or at least I used to think so. For this outing I decided to cop and use a downloaded map to find my way around. It’s surprisingly easy in Metroid to pick up nearly ever power up and accessory before fighting even one boss. This actually makes the bosses a bit of a push over.

Zero Mission changes things up a bit and gives you a built in map akin to the more modern Metroid titles. The trick here is, many of the areas have been altered slightly requiring special items to access the next area. In fact, Metroid Zero is extremely linear in its storyline.  Many times in the game you’ll find Chozo statues that will point you in the direction you need to head next.

Metroid was pretty ahead of it’s time with it’s free form game play mechanics. Metroid Zero stream lines this idea by adding modern puzzle limitations. The whole experience is very similar to Metroid 3 for the Super Nintendo. It’s still a bit limited by its controls.

In the original Metroid you could shoot, jump and shoot missiles. You access missiles by pressing select. Zero Missions adds a few more items to the mix from its Metroid 3 predecessor, namely Super Missiles and Power Bombs. This makes things a bit tricky however since the Game Boy Advance doesn’t have the same number of buttons as the SNES control pad. Select still cycles through the missile types but the more powerful attack is activated by pressing and holding the R button. The other shoulder button is used for a fairly useless diagonal shot. I can’t help but some sort of scanning power up would have been a better use for the L button. Especially given the number of hidden blocks and the large variety of ways needed to destroy them.

Zero Mission’s map doesn’t make finding everything easier however. I’d estimate that the overall map is at least twice the size of the original if you count the added on final area. Even without that section there are many additional secret hidden paths to find. Oh right, yeah, I said bonus area. I don’t want to spoil things too much but Zero mission doesn’t have quite the same ending you might remember. The bonus area also uses some different play mechanics than players are used to. Play mechanics leaning the irritatingly difficult side of things unfortunately.

Like I said, I don’t want to ruin it too much. Back to the main game. With Zero Mission’s expanded map there is also an expanded selection of bosses. Technically Ridley and Kraid are still the only true bosses but there are a whole slew of new mini bosses that must be defeated throughout your journey across Zebes. The old bosses also got a major facelift. Kraid is now the massive giant he was in Metroid 3, though he’s a lot more of a pushover this round. Ridley is also larger and more resembles his modern pterodactyl self.

In the original Metroid the bosses were not much larger than Samus and followed a simple attack pattern of “Throw lots of things at the player”. This actually made them a bit more difficult as the battles more or less broke down to pounding your opponent with missiles and hoping he died before you did. Zero Mission has more epic scripted boss battled and neither Ridley nor Kraid really do much damage with their attacks. Truth be told, New Ridley is easier to defeat if you let him pick you up so you can pound on him point blank with your missiles. Zero Mission is all around more forgiving of a game. In Metroid, when your health was depleted you were dead. Sure, you had a password but there was no direct continue or save feature. Also in the original Metroid, refilling your health is difficult to do, usually involving killing many of the little bug creatures popping out of the ground.  Also. Zero Mission has health restoring Chozo statues all over. Instantaneous relief.

Finishing the game also unlocks a playable version of the original Metroid.  The remake’s modern mechanics however make it a lot less of a chore to play and much more enjoyable

Review – Transformers – RiD – Scorponok

Possibly the last of these fun little animal Decepticons we’re going to see is Scorponok.  There’s also a Toys R Us purple colored repaint of this figure called Paralon, who actually really resembles Beast Wars Scoponok, but this review primarily covers the normal brown colored mass released version.  Scorponok’s animal motif is, a scorpion.

Transformers Robots in Disguise Scorponok

In fact, he simply IS a scorpion in his alt mode.  While the other Decepticons all turn into vehicles with animal like themes in robot and beast mode, Scorponok just turns into robot and a scorpion.  Straight out Beast Wars style.  He has a really unique style going for him as well, and a very unique Transformation.  The scorpion mode gives him some really obvious choices for hands, but Scorponok eschews that with a clever trick.

Transformers Robots in Disguise Scorponok

His scorpion claws slide up his arms to become a pair of huge shoulder pauldrons.  No parts forming here, but they are essentially lose pieces at one point.  The effect is neat for sure, but the connections tend to be a little lose on the shoulder joint.  Given their large size they catch anything passing by and easily leverage out of their joint to become crooked or loose.  The end result also means his claws have no real joints in Scorpion mode, which is kind of a lame trade off since Scorpion claws are one of the more versatile and fun joints in scorpion toys.  Who doesn’t live a big set of vicious working pincers?

Transformers Robots in Disguise Scorponok

He also has a ton of fun character in his face and overall design.  His little face with it’s little robot mustache makes him look pretty interesting.  He also has a set of spindly legs that work well despite their small size and his upper body girth.  He also completed his sandy sort of Persian motif with a scimitar weapon.  The sword can be held in robot and scorpion mode as a giant stinger.

Transformers Robots in Disguise Scorponok

Transformers Robots in Disguise Scorponok

Overall, Scorponok isn’t the coolest Decepticon in the line, but he’s still a fun little toy.  He does feel a little small overall, which is probably his biggest downside.  The Paralon repaint kind of fits the name Scorponok a bit better, if you are looking at getting only one, but I find the brown color scheme works better for the figure overall.

Transformers Robots in Disguise Scorponok

 

Review – Transformers – Combiner Wars – Computron (Technobot Giftset)

Combiner Wars was definitely an interesting take on the line.  The need for every figure to be a robot and a vehicle and an arm or a leg really made for some pretty similar designs across the board.  All of the most well known combiners, Superion, Menasor, Bruticus, Defensor, ended up with a release in the main line.  Devastator got a massive Titan Class boxed set release as well.  One vehicle combiner missing from the mainline was Computron.  Instead of individual releases, Computron came available at the tail end of the line as a boxed set only, though he consists of repaints of previously released figures.

Transformers Combiner Wars Computron

The boxed set for Computron consists of 7 figures, 5 forming the core combiner and one Legends class partner, like all of the other releases, who happens to also include another even smaller partner toy of it’s own.  Unlike the other 4 known combiners, Computron is a straight update of his normal 5 members, no stand ins like Rook of Alpha Bravo.  It’s also worth noting that there was also a Japanese boxed set released around the same time that costs around the same price.  There are a lot of different design choices in which molds are used and both sets contain unique new remold versions of Strafe.  I do not own the Japanese version but there are pluses and minuses to each design choice and a lot of what it comes down to is a preference of G1 cartoon vs G1 toy aesthetics.

Transformers Combiner Wars Computron

Lightspeed

Transformers Combiner Wars Computron

I want to start with Lightspeed since he’s probably the most boring of all of the figures in this set.  Not really so much because of his design, but because he’s a repaint of the Streetwise/Prowl mold which is itself a remold of the Breakdown/Wildrider mold.  Basically, this mold has been used a ton throughout this entire line and so it’s starting to feel a little tired.  On the plus side, it’s one of the better molds in the line.  He has a nice range of pose ability, his transformation is a little more interesting all around and it works well as both an arm and a leg.

Transformers Combiner Wars Computron

The overall shape fits pretty well as an update to G1 Lightspeed as well.  The original toy was a bit more orange in color however.  This color works pretty well though and homages closer to the cartoon color pallet.

Nosecone

Transformers Combiner Wars Computron

Next up we have Nosecone.  Probably the weakest figure in the entire set, primarily due to the choice in base mold.  The original Nosecone was a drill tank thing.  Rather than take the Takara route of extensively remolding Rook, Hasbro’s Nosecone is simply a repaint of Brawl from the Combaticon set with a new drill bit turret.

A lot of Nosecones flaws are simply due to using the Brawl mold, which is the weakest in the line.  He is so close to being pretty good though, at least in robot mode.  The waist joint however is very poorly designed, things accordion together to connect the legs to the torso, but the accordion action isn’t quite a solid as it wants to be or should be.  He does have a pretty nice paint job in robot mode as well which helps.  The paint apps are more designed to homage the original toy than the original cartoon.

Transformers Combiner Wars Computron

Where things fall apart is the vehicle.  The intended design is to position the turret out what is the back of the original tank.  The problem is this means the bottom of the feel are really obviously exposed in all of their hollow glory.  You’re better off just positioning the drill facing forward the way Brawn’s turret sits and calling it a day.  It’s mildly less accurate but looks a heck of a lot better.

Strafe

Transformers Combiner Wars Computron

Strafe is kind of the polar opposite of Nosecone and Lightspeed.  Where both of those were straight repaints, Strafe is an extensive remold of the Air Raid mold.  Where Air Raid turns into an F-14 fighter jet, Strafe has an entirely new front half and a completely different wing assembly on the legs.  The only real noticeable bits that are the same are the robot parts and the rear tail fins.  As such he shares the same basic transformation that all of the Aerialbots used with the clam-shell leg mechanism and the arms folded to the sides and the nosecone backpack.  All of the Aerialbots are solid figures however, which translates into a nice plus for Strafe.

Transformers Combiner Wars Computron

Unlike his Aerialbot counterparts, Strafe’s “funky space ship” alt mode allows him to wear his bulky undercarriage much more well.  He isn’t trying to be a sleek jet, so the body bulk and complete lack of aerodynamics become much more excusable.

Afterburner

Transformers Combiner Wars Computron

Afterburner is the pseudo new mold of this set.  The motorcycle mold in Combiner Wars showed up originally in Takara’s Defensor set for Groove.  There has been rumor and speculation that the US release received Rook in place of Groove because of safety issues involving the clear plastic canopy, due to scale issues of the motorcycle, and possibly just because the mold is a little large for a standard deluxe and this didn’t fit price wise.  Eventually Groove did get a limited release in the states through several online retailers.  Afterburner however is the most reliable way to get the mold in the US, though Afterburner is also a remold and not just a straight repaint of Groove.

Transformers Combiner Wars Computron

I can see why he might have failed standard safety tests, that window backpack just sort of hangs off of the top of the figure and clear plastic tends to be more brittle than the standard plastic used in most figures.  On the other hand, here we are, with a regular mass release version of the mold.  The speculation that he’s too large is feasible as well, he is definitely taller and bulkier than most of the Combiner Wars deluxes.  The scale issue, at least in Afterburner’s case, kind of falls away however.  Groove is a police motorcycle, thus would be much smaller than his fellow Protectobots.  Afterburner is a space motorcycle.  Who says he isn’t a giant space motorcycle.  Especially when all of his friends are giant robots.

Scattorshot

Transformers Combiner Wars Computron

Scattorshot is a repaint of the much more muted color pallet, mass released, Scattorshot who is a remold of the Aerialbot torso, Silverbolt.  The mass release version of the figure was very bland and mostly red, and formed the torso for “Beta-tron”.  I’m not sure why he ended up with two releases, my only real assumption is they weren’t sure Computron would actually get a release.  The boxed set version has a lot more white spots of color and different shades of red, which really helps make the mold look a lot less… beta, in design.

This mold is one of the better torsos in the line, but the individual robot is a little funky looking with it’s huge boots.  It does work for Scattorshot though, the original toy also had some kind of funky proportions going on with his body.  The funky space wings really help to make him seem different than Silverbolt as well, which is nice.

Transformers Combiner Wars Computron

The vehicle gets a new node piece in the form of a giant cannon, in addition to the previously mentioned space wings.  There are enough little greebly bits added to the vehicle to help him stand out even more from Silverbolt.  The torso, doesn’t fare quite as well however, as it very much resembles Superion’s torso.

Scrounge and Cybaxx (Boltax)

Transformers Combiner Wars Computron

Because there were little “helper” transformers in the Legends scale for each of the other combiners, Computron also includes a repaint of Generations Cosmos and Payload in the form of Scrounge and Boltax.  Both are relatively obscure G1 comic characters, both of which were originally yellow gold colored.   The original Scrounge seems to turn into some sort of wheel thing, so Cosmos’ flying saucer works pretty well there.  Boltax doesn’t really have an original alt mode, his association here is more on the “smart guy” side of the Technobots theme.  He was sort of an omniscient librarian in his original form.

Transformers Combiner Wars Computron

The new head on the Cosmos mold is a nice little touch, it would have been really simple and easy to just make him a repaint.  Given that this is an older mold from an older line, the interactivity with the larger Computron is pretty weak.  Where Menasor and Defensor got new chest pieces and Superion and Bruticus got guns, Scrounge sort of becomes a shield that loose bolts onto existing pegs and Boltax turns into an undersized targetmaster style gun (just like Payload).  Well, undersized for Computron, less so for any of the individual robots.

Transformers Combiner Wars Computron

Computron

Transformers Combiner Wars Computron

So, being apart of Combiner Wars, and the combiner Computron, these figures all merge together to form one giant robot.  He’s actually got quite a bit going for him in his combined form, compared to the other combiners in the line.  Despite some of the individual flaws, all of these figures are good limbs.  Couple this with the Silverbolt/Scattorshot torso and you end up with a pretty solid combined robot.

Transformers Combiner Wars Computron

What also helps make this set is that he also includes a new set of hand/foot pieces.  The individual releases all came with various hand/foot bits that could be either a hand or a foot.  They were also a bit undersized for the combined robots, especially for the feet.  Computron here has two dedicated feet that are much larger than the previous hand/foot gun pieces, and two nicely sculpted left and right fists.  The Hand/Foot Guns all were also designed to work as a left or right hand.  These pieces really help him look more beefy and properly proportioned in his combined form.

His color scheme is a little hodge podgey, though the tones are all sort of in the same general pallet and there is a lot of colors across the limbs that helps everything feel a bit more blended.  He also benefits from the boxed set benefit of budget, because he has a bit more paint apps across the board, which helps make him look really nice.

Overall, Computron is a really great complete package of a combiner.  He’s probably my favorite of the 5 combiner sets that I own (Superion, Bruticus, Defensor, Menasor, and Computron).  The techno spacey Cybertronian theme of all of the vehicles helps these guys stand out in a sea of Earth modes and help hide some of the bulky-ness flaws of the Combiner Wars line.  You also get an entire set instead of having to hunt down individual robots, which makes things a lot easier.