Train Conductor

Train Conductor - DayI’m hopelessly addicted. I managed to pick this little gem of a game up completely free from the app store when it was on special offer (now 59p). It’s a puzzler with a hugely simple mechanic. Direct the trains entering from stage left and right onto the correct tracks as indicated by numbers by their cabs without crashing. You direct the trains by creating tracks for them to use between the main lines using a swipe of your finger. Each train delivered scores you points, the more you deliver the higher the multiplier and the more points you get. One crash and it’s all over.

It starts off simple enough, three tracks and trains slowly chuffing onto the screen. But soon chucks in new gameplay mechanics, longer trains, broken tracks etc., to up the stakes. Each level takes place on a single day indicated by a Sun moving across a dial at the bottom of the screen. The length of day is fixed but there is a speed up button which will increase the speed of the trains so you can theoretically deliver more trains in a day. The problem is they move so fast you need to be quick to prevent crashes! If you deliver any trains to the wrong depot you will lose points so it’s not the end of the world. You will probably be doing this a lot at full speed on the harder levels.

Your total points tot up to unlock new levels. There are only five levels, with an Australian theme, in the game but you will need to play each one several times to unlock the next. There is a twist though. You can play the levels in the day or night and the night levels play completely differently as you have ghost trains to deliver that cannot crash, it’s faster and you again have gameplay tweaks as you progress through the levels. So effectively ten levels for nothing. There is a USA themed sequel also available (also 59p).

It’s a shame it doesn’t support Game Center (it does support Plus+) as it would make a good high score game to challenge your friends. Once you’ve completed all ten levels (which will only take a couple of hours) there’s not much else to draw you back to it apart from trying to beat your own high scores. There are ‘achievements’ as well, but without Game Center support they are pretty pointless. You can’t check which ones you have got without having a Plus+ account either.

Train Conductor - NightSonically and graphically it is very good indeed. Very apt little ditties play for each level, the graphics are crisp and the game controls perfectly. The game is brilliant for a quick blast as levels only take a couple of minutes and you will soon find yourself restarting again and again and before you know it tens of minutes have passed!

Give it a try, you might end up hopelessly addicted too!

Fighting Fantasy

Warlock of Firetop MountainWhy did nobody tell me the Fighting Fantasy books were available on iOS? I used to love these books written by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone in the 1980s.

Maybe you remember them (of course you do!). The books were simple role-playing affairs where each page was a small part of the adventure and the reader takes control of the story. Reader choices control the path of the story by going to different pages depending upon various actions and outcomes. You used two dice to determine outcomes of battles and tests of luck, but of course everyone cheated by making sure they never died. They could actually be quite laborious to play as you needed to keep tabs on your stats and it was quite easy to die and have to start again.

I still have a good number of the original 59 books in the series including the first, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, which is the one I have bought for my iPod for the princely sum of £1.79 which is quite expensive for an iOS game..

Page 218The app is basically an OCR scan of the original text and images with action buttons to take you to battles, new pages etc. The original line drawings zoom into full colour versions which are really very pretty and set the scene nicely. Die rolls are done by shaking the device or touching the screen, they might be slightly loaded though so that you don’t die within 5 minutes which often happened in the books.

The app keeps tabs of your stamina, skill and luck levels which saves having to have paper and pencil as you did with the books. It would be nice if it drew a map of the dungeon for you as you went but it doesn’t appear to, it’s quite easy to get lost as to where you are and where you’ve been as you come across numerous T-junctions and dead ends in your adventures. It has an auto-save feature so you can switch off at any time.

A nice touch is being able to have your own music playing which can be quite atmospheric. Certain albums still remind me of playing D&D with my brother as we often used to have tapes playing as we explored dungeons.

Underground RiverYou can alter text size and font but I notice that the line wrapping goes a bit wrong at some of the smaller fonts. There’s usually not much text per page so it’s not too bad to stick with the default size. There is a visual and audible page flicking effect as you move between pages which might be hiding some loading time, it’s pretty quick so it’s not too irritating but page turns aren’t instantaneous. I’ve hit one page bug where successfully fighting a rope failed to light up the next page button, luckily going back to the autosave fixed it, hopefully there aren’t any game breaking bugs.

I’m not sure of the longevity as it’s not going to take more than a couple of hours to play through a book. There will be some replay value if you wish to find parts of the dungeon you missed first time around. However the app is quite expensive considering the amount of content how much some 59p apps cram in. Purchases would be much more impulsive at the lower price point.

Several of the books have been converted to iOS so once I’ve beaten Zagor and nicked his treasure I might be buying some more!

Rock Band 3

I was weak and bought RB3 with the keyboard last week. I skipped RB2 as I thought RB had a very dull single-player career path and having played RB2 at Chowny’s thought it was no better.

Pro-keys is awesome n all, playing along to the keyboard parts using actual notes is great fun, despite some songs (e.g. Marilyn Manson’s The Beautiful People) having next to nothing to do.

However, the single-player career is yet again incredibly dull. I’ve still only got two gigs unlocked and I have to endure the terrible animation of my band getting on an underground train over and over again. Random setlists bring up the same songs time and time again and choosing my own songs is pretty pointless as it’s entirely broken. I’ve got a keyboard plugged in, why does the game list songs that don’t have keyboard parts? Scrolling through dozens of songs to find the odd one that does support the keyboard is very frustrating.

Pretty disappointed with the game despite the keyboard being superb. I’m resisting blasting through it on guitar. How it ever got 10/10 on Eurogamer I will never know.

I am the music man and I can play!

Rock Band, just how good is this?

I’ve played all the Guitar Hero games from the very beginning so I’m pretty good at plastic guitar now (still get whooped by my nephew though, boo) and played through Hard difficulty without any problems. Nearly finished Expert level as well now.

The game also comes with plastic drums (oh yes) and I’ve never played drums before, I found it pretty tough going to start with on Easy level! But now I can smack out a beat on Medium pretty good, dead chuffed that I can do it although alternate right hand and right foot beats still confuse my brain! So you can see what the drums are like check out this YouTube video of someone playing Expert level, that’ll be me soon!

I’ll not mention vocals, except I can’t sing!

Wii

Quite a few things to catch up on, let’s start with the Nintendo Wii.

Got my preordered Wii on release day (8th December) and haven’t stopped playing since! What an excellent little bit of kit. Wii Sports (especially bowling) is excellent fun, Baseball is good too especially when my Stevie Wonder Mii drops catches! Zelda: Twilight Princess is absolutely stonking, one of the best games I have ever played. Played a lot of Super Mario 64, an old N64 title which you can buy from the online store. Everything looks crisp and sharp in 480p and it breathes new life into old Gamecube games.

Best purchase ever? Maybe. Let’s see what the longevity is like.

It’s Grrrrrreat

It’s an EA Sports game so it’s spawn of the devil but it is really good. I wouldn’t have bought this but so many people on my Friend’s List had it that I picked it up from Tesco (£39.96 in store which is pretty good) and I’m very glad I did.

It takes a few rounds to get the hang of it as there is no power meter as in traditional golf games (e.g. Links). You judge your swing based upon the lie, club, wind etc. and pull back the stick accordingly. It gives you fine control over your shots but does initially make putting seem really difficult.

As you play and beat players in the Tiger challenges your player’s skill potential increases and you have to train him/her in training games to fulfill that potential. You can create players in the face morphing option which can create some really freaky looking players.

I gave Colin Montgomerie a good kicking last night, despite him playing pretty well, we were matching each over ball for ball, on the way back in I chipped in and then hit two 40ft putts to pull into an unassailable lead.

Online I’ve played a couple of rounds, the first round was hilarious as we were all over the place, the second was a much more proper affair.

All in all a very good golf game, even if you have to swallow your pride to buy an EA Sports game!

Rockstar Games presents Table Tennis

Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis, the debut next-generation title from the creators of the Grand Theft Auto and The Midnight Club franchises.

Developed by Rockstar San Diego, Table Tennis harnesses the incredible power of Xbox 360™ through an advanced game engine designed specifically for next-gen console technology.  Utilizing the full capabilities of the hardware, Table Tennis is visually stunning, the physics are fluid and natural, and when coupled with the intuitive gameplay, the competition and ferocity found in a live table tennis match is authentically recreated.

Well I was really looking forward to this but now it seems it might not have online play after all which removes virtually all the point of owning the game. Sigh.