Platforms: iPhone, iPad
Price: £1.99 / $2.99
Bladeslinger wants desperately to be the iOS answer to Devil May Cry. Set in a the Wild West, you play as cowboy William Glaston as he uses both guns and a sword to fight against demonic creatures. Everything looks fantastic on the smartphone or tablet screen, in full 3D with detailed characters and environments. Yet another Unreal Engine-powered game pushes the iPhone's graphics capabilities with stunning results.
But if the graphics are pushing the hardware to its limits, Bladeslinger's controls push it a bit too hard past the smartphone's capabilities. Tapping on enemies fires William's pistols while swiping slashes his sword and swiping with two fingers attacks using a sort of cybernetic left arm. You also have to move by holding a finger in the desired direction, as well as look around by dragging two fingers and dodge in any direction by tapping with two fingers. On a tablet you can almost make the convoluted control scheme work, but good luck managing the crazy series of swipes and taps on the smaller iPhone's screen.
Even with your fingers having more room to breathe with an iPad, combat feels stiff trying to transition between pistols, a sword and actually moving around. Bladeslinger may be a showpiece on iOS for how it looks, but the gameplay was just too ambitious for the touchscreen's capabilities this time, and the overall game suffers as a result.
> Download 'Bladeslinger' from the App Store
Platforms: iPhone, iPad, Android
Price: iOS: £1.99 / $2.99, Android: Free
The latest puzzle game from Square Enix has players tracing between like-coloured blocks to re-assemble blocky 3D objects. Blocks explode into a ring at the start of each stage, as you draw to connect matching blocks as the ring rotates by. Successfully match a large chain, and the blocks clear to build back the original object. Trace over a block of a different colour and the chain is broken, leaving the blocks in play.
The catch is that each level only gives you a few laps around the ring to clear all of the blocks. This means you'll often have to take big risks to get all of the blocks in a chain to clear them. However, it also means playing cautiously, since messing up a large chain can leave you with too many blocks to clear on the next lap. There are also power-up blocks mixed in, which add score multipliers, bombs and other enhancements to help along the way. It's the balance between risky and cautious play that makes Motley Blocks such a frantic and fun puzzle game. To top it off, there is a level editor where you can create your own multicolored block sculptures to share with other players. Players have to first beat their own creations though before sharing, just to ensure that no impossible levels get posted online. It's really the whole package, making for an intuitive, fast-paced puzzle game.
> Download 'Motley Blocks' from the App Store
> Download 'Motley Blocks' from the Amazon App Store
Platforms: iPhone, iPad
Price: £1.49 / $1.99
Marvel mastermind Stan Lee has created a new hero to star in the new iOS game, Verticus. The titular hero's superpower seems to be that he can fall very fast while wearing a suit of armour, which admittedly is not the most practical skill. He uses his power to try and fall to the centre of the Earth, and grab an alien core to stop the planet from exploding. A surprisingly responsive virtual joystick is used to control Verticus in his descent, allowing you to collect coins and power-ups while avoiding mines, enemies, and outcropping walls.
Upon reaching the Earth's core there is a boss encounter, though don't call it a battle. You can buy a missile upgrade for Verticus, but they are used more for defence to destroy obstacles. Instead of fighting the boss, it throws patterns of mines at you to dodge, before letting you grab the core and try to escape out the other side. Think of it like the ending of Return of the Jedi, except you're diving into a planet instead of the death star. While this sort of endless runner formula has been fairly exhausted on iOS devices already, Verticus manages to still stand out as a top notch game thanks to the skydiving freedom of movement and responsive controls.
> Download 'Verticus' from the App Store
Platforms: iPhone, iPad, Android
While the original Shadowgun on smartphones and tablets was strictly a single-player game, a multiplayer sequel has now arrived with Shadowgun: DeadZone. Like its predecessor, the cover-based shooter looks absolutely fantastic on mobile devices, with console-like graphics and responsive touch controls. There are two modes to play, as you can join online games of either the self-explanatory deathmatch mode or zone control, which is Shadowgun: DeadZone's version of capture the flag. Much to the annoyance of many gamers out there, for the multiplayer offshoot DeadZone goes for the free-to-play model. Rather than buying in-game cash directly, the game has you buying boosts that help you earn cash faster. It's an interesting way of going about in-app purchases, which encourages players to actually keep playing to earn cash for upgrades, rather than just pay their way to the top.
Unfortunately, Shadowgun: DeadZone is a technical mess. The game crashes almost as often as it works, and when it does work the online lag will make it seem like players are practically teleporting across the map. It just doesn't feel like a finished game, with a long way to go yet. If nothing else, it serves as ample justification for why the original Shadowgun lacked a multiplayer option. Updates are supposedly in the works to make the game more stable, but they may arrive too little too late to save Shadowgun: DeadZone from itself.
> Download 'Shadowgun: DeadZone' from the App Store
> Download 'Shadowgun: DeadZone' from the Google Play Store
What mobile releases have you been playing recently? Add a comment in the space below!