Lolocaust One Hour Play-Test: Handheld Round-Up

So we’ve done a few One Hour Play-Tests recently, and the majority have been on Xbox 360 titles, for obvious reasons. What I keep meaning to do is to run some other play-test reports on handheld games I’ve been fiddling with over the last couple of weeks. I tried to write a full length one for Angry Birds Space (iOS) last night, but realised that many handheld games just don’t need a ton of words, so join us on this handheld gaming compilation special.

We kick things off with the previously mentioned Angry Birds Space (specifically the iPad HD version). Everyone knows what Angry Birds is, and this is the first follow-up title that actually feels like a new game – Seasons is little more than a themed expansion and Rio adds some features that become fully-fledged in Space, but is still part of that original cluster of titles. The story features a new batch of Space empowered, but still angry, birds after some intergalactic pigs whom have stolen some asteroid egg things. So far not much different, but what Space does that changes the game, is put in gravity effects. You see, slingshotting into the vacuum of space with generate a solid straight line (no gravity you see, eejits) whereas passing into an atmosphere will have a gravitational effect. Soon enough you’ll be sling-shotting around planets, sending pigs hurtling off into space, frozen, and saving the eggs from the porcine menace.

Angry Birds Space doesn’t reinvent the wheel, and lets be honest given the massive success of the series thur far it would be remiss of them to try to, but it does show a movement towards a more accomplished title. Rovio have done very well with Space and the only issue I could comment upon would be the in-game purchase of tougher levels, in a game you’ve paid for already. I’m all for adding in content to titles, but PDLC on iOS titles is usually reserved for freemium titles. It’s optional, but given the lack of content in the game at this moment in time, I feel that there should be some free content available before they consider throwing out the micro-transaction stuff.

Next up is Kid Icarus: Uprising, a title that most definitely cannot be criticised for lacking content as it is overflowing with collectibles, AR card insanity and stuff. The game is a revamp of an ancient Nintendo franchise and really bears little resemblance to those early vertical scrolling platform adventures (sadly) instead featuring flying sections – oh yes, Pit can now fly – that are reminiscent of Space Harrier and on-foot sections that feel a lot like Devil May Cry or Bullet Witch, sort of. So the storyline goes that Pit is pitted against Medusa to end her evil deeds once and for all, but that’s really not the point as the game seems more interested in trading insults and pounding you with mini-levels full of action. Which is a good thing.

There is a negative though.

It’s a bastard to actually play, so much so that they have bundled the game with a stand to make it easier to play, which sort of spoils the ‘portable gaming’ element of the game, but when the game is so great can it be ignored? I think so, it controls similarly to Metroid Prime Hunters on the original DS, and the stand is actually quite useful for a number of games so I see it as added value. Essentially you control movement with the thumb stick, fire with the left bumper and aim with the stylus on the touch screen. At times like this you’d hope that someone would have added support for the other game-improving accessory, the Circle Pad Pro, and you’d be right. The game DOES support the Circle Pad Pro – contrary to some reports – but it only supports it as an alternative control stick for folks who like to hold their machine with their other hand, rather than the more obvious option of adding in a control reticule on that second stick. It’s an oversight for sure, but again it’s fine once you get used to the odd choices. The game also features on-line gaming, something that is lacking on the 3DS as well as an awesome AR card battle mode that allows you to fight cards against one another in an augmented reality 3D environment. The game comes with seven cards – with more available on Club Nintendo and in certain promo places – and could be a new craze in playgrounds around the UK. With over four hundred – oh yes, loads – cards to collect, Nintendo are encouraging folks to swap and share their cards, which is a good attitude to have.

All in all Kid Icarus: Uprising is a great title, that has been stunted by an odd control option but one that every 3DS owner should endeavour to own.

Finally we will be looking at Draw Something, the latest Facebook/Smart Phone integrated game to become a sensation. Essentially Semi-Portable Pictionary the game tasks you with drawing something from a list for a friend. If they guess it correctly you both get some coins – which may be exchanged for new colours and bombs to help make the game easier – and then it’s their turn to draw for you. With solid Facebook integration and a deceptively simple layout it gets its hooks into you early on and soon enough – friends permitting – you may well find yourself in a constant loop of finger painting. The biggest appeal to me is seeing the thought process of my friends, both when generating and guessing an image. You see everything in real time, so when your friend is struggling to draw Norway you get to see their mini-breakdown play out before your eyes. I have a few artist friends, all of whom love the game, but all of whom have found that their earlier efforts were FAR more detailed than later images, which often resembled a four year old’s finger painting of a cat.

Future updates to the game promise an easier way to save and share images, which will ensure that no crap puppy will be left behind, and any great shots will be immortalised forever (for a week or so). Draw Something is one of my must have apps now, and I’ve promoted it to the static shortcut bar, pushing Snoopy’s Street Fair out. It is simple, can be hilarious and is often very, very rude – or maybe that’s just my friends’ fault, but regardless of that it is one of the best games of it’s type out there.

 

So there you go, three games and all of them have impressed me. The next Handheld Compilation will look at three that just sank without a trace. Terrible games…

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