iOS/Android games of the week
24 Sep 2012
Avengers: Initiative, Osmos & Dire Grove reviewed
The three iOS/Android games that had us glued to our mobiles this week: Avengers Initiative, Osmos and Mystery Case Files: Dire Grove...
Avengers Initiative (£4.39 on Android, £5 on iOS)
Fans of Infinity Blade and the Batman: Arkham Asylum game for iOS and Android should know what to expect with Avengers Initiative, a beautiful beat-em-up featuring Marvel’s superheroes. So far you can only access the first chapter, which puts you in the shredded pants of the Hulk as he pummels his way through a colourful assortment of famous baddies, but more episodes are on their way featuring the rest of the colourful cast.
There’s a loose plot of sorts, but Avengers Initiative is all about confronting enormous HD bosses and smacking ten bells out of them, and in this respect the game is a winner. The responsive touch controls are a delight, allowing you to weave, block and bash in a silky smooth fashion – something Arkham Asylum didn’t quite manage. Swiping the screen in different directions makes Hulk thrash his opponent, and throwing together a specific series of attacks unleashes devastating combos that look and sound truly agonising. Of course, your opponents are capable blockers, so you’ll need to penetrate their defences by dodging, blocking or deflecting their blows and stunning them with devastating counter-attacks.
Between each battle you can build up Hulk’s powers using the simple upgrade system, pumping points into his health and attack abilities or augmenting his skills with special gems. You get extra points by completing simple smash-and-grab mini games, or of course by pulling out your wallet and handing over more virtual cash if you’re the impatient type. We suspect your upgrade points and cash are kept deliberately low for each victory, so you’re forced to either replay battles continuously in order to defeat the tougher enemies, or else stick your hand in your pocket and cough up the necessary dough. Considering Avengers Initiative already costs a fiver, this could be viewed as a slightly cheeky move by the creators. We’d have preferred more depth in the upgrade system too, which is a little too simplistic to get you truly involved.
From the bold high-def graphics to the devastating attacks, Avengers Initiative is a fun and well-designed action game, whether you’re a Marvel fan or otherwise. Ropey upgrade system aside, action fans should find plenty here to enjoy.
Osmos (£2.99 for iPad, £1.99 for iPhone and Android)
Amoebas are rarely gifted hero status in games, but Osmos casts you as a single-celled organism whose sole objective is to consume other lifeforms. The game mechanics are simple: you float around a 2D environment absorbing smaller amoebas, while avoiding larger organisms that can absorb (and therefore kill) you. Every cell you suck up makes you bigger, but the only way to move is to spit out tiny blobs of yourself, which propels you in the opposite direction – a neat little mechanic that adds a tough tactical edge to the game, as too much manoeuvering will shrink you and make you vulnerable.
Osmos has dozens of bite-sized missions to complete (perfect for the commute), most of which involve becoming the biggest amoeba or absorbing other AI-driven enemies. Thankfully there are plenty of twists to keep things fresh, from lifeforms that shrink you when absorbed to levels set in orbit around an enormous creature. You’ll need fast reactions to survive the tougher challenges, but things rarely get frustrating. Even if you find yourself getting irate, the soothing glowing graphics and atmospheric soundtrack will cool your blood and have you hitting replay for one more go. You even get a multiplayer mode for sucking up your friends [currently iOS only, being ported to Android soon].
Mystery Case Files: Dire Grove (iPad, £4.99)
This hidden object adventure game sees you investigating the disappearance of four annoying American teenagers in a mysterious ghost town called Dire Grove. There are plenty of sinister broken-down environments to explore, from a dusty museum to ruined old cottages, all brooding with sinister atmosphere despite the slightly cartoony graphics. You’ll uncover letters and videotapes as you progress, which gradually reveal the kids’ plight – the inclusion of full motion video is a neat touch, even if the four students are more irritating than a barrel of Alan Carrs.
Hidden object fans will know what to expect. There are dozens of scenes packed with random objects, and you’re given a list of specific items you have to find. These treasure hunts hit just the right level of difficulty: challenging without ever being frustrating. The exploration and hidden object sections are also broken up with the occasional puzzle, be it finding a way of crossing an icy river or arranging tiles to complete a circuit.
We made it through the entire game without using the built-in hint system but it’s always there if you find yourself stumped, along with the option to skip if you find yourself truly flummoxed. You also get a virtual diary which updates as you progress, in case you lose track of the supernatural spookiness. Dire Grove is an entertaining adventure suitable for any age and we'll be looking out for more entries in the Mystery Case Files series.