Warpack Grunts (Review)

Warpack Grunts has some very nice touches, but unfortunately there are too many serious issues that mar this game and keep it from becoming a GREAT game.
The first issue is a big one: Simply put, the viewable area in Grunts stinks.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying I want to see more terrain at a time, all I’m asking is that I be able to actually SEE MY ENEMY BEFORE THEY ARE ALREADY SHOOTING ME.
I know, it sounds like a lot to ask, but in my opinion fun games are games where you actually have a chance at excellence.  I assure you, any soldier on a battlefield tends to see his target before he can fire on his target, MUCH LESS BE FIRED ON by his target.
Playing Grunts feels like being a myopic soldier who had his Coke bottle glasses stomped on at the beginning of every mission, and it results in levels where you gauge the location of your enemy based on the velocity and angle of the exit wounds of your character…
NEWS FLASH: FREEVERSE/STRANGEFLAVOUR, THIS IS NOT WHAT WE IN GAMING CIRCLES LIKE TO CALL FUN.
The second issue is a big one too: The controls.  The controls in Grunts are as counterintuitive as it gets.  Let me break them down for you so you can understand just how terrible they are.
PROBLEM #1 – MOVEMENT
What’s that, you say?  Movement is a core gameplay mechanic?  Aye matey, it is. And yet on the iPhone, game developers insist on taking a perfectly good wheel and reinventing it to be a square.
In Grunts, you simply press and hold a finger on the screen where you would like your platoon to go.  Sounds easy, right?  WRONG
To be fair, if the game were only about moving, then maybe, just maybe, this would have been acceptable, except the game is about moving and shooting…. with precision.
Tapping and holding on an intended destination and letting your platoon pathfind their way there is, in many situations, less than ideal. And let us not forget that double tapping fires your weapon which, suffice to say, stops you cold in your tracks.”
How many people enjoy playing shooting games where you must stop moving to shoot a weapon? (Okay, Resident Evil aside, which btw they have wonderful reasons for stopping before shooting, so we won’t get into that here.)
The controls are not only limiting, but they also remove the player from the action one step further by setting up this mechanism of waypoint tap travel coupled with double taps to fire.
PROBLEM #2 – FIRING
To fire in Grunts, you simply double tap your finger at your intended target.  Sounds easy, right?  WRONG
Now please, take a moment and venture into Imaginationland with me…
Let’s imagine that you’re a sniper, and you finally have your target in your sights. You hold your breath, control your pulse, and double squeeze the trigger…  Double squeeze the what!… oh and remember to hold it down after the second squeeze for continuous fire!
Excuse me sir, but no.
How precise would you feel having to squeeze a trigger on a rifle twice to fire once?
Now remember that unlike a trigger on a rifle, your finger on an iPhone is not constrained to a mechanical linear path, but is instead free floating.  Double taps, coupled with remembering to hold your finger down after the second tap takes way too much mental overhead in the back of your mind.
So what are our suggestions to fix the controls?  How about this instead:
Just invisibly split the screen in half vertically:  Let the left half of the screen act as a touch analog stick for movement, and the right half as another touch analog stick that lets you point your weapon and fire.  (Think iDracula)
Now the game is immersive: you have direct control over your team, and you can even run and gun!
Couple this with a change in the enemy AI so that they don’t start firing until they can see you, or more specifically until you can actually see them, on the edge of your screen and you’ve got a fun, replayable game.
Grunts is a great idea, but due to some fundamental issues, it has extremely limited (re)play value.
The art throughout the game is fairly decent, and there are some truly wonderful touches like the trees swaying in the breeze and the sounds of the jungle.  However, when you compare this game to Wingnuts 2 (a true gem that I desperately want to see translated to the iPhone), it’s hard to believe that Freeverse was even involved in this project, as they would have had to unlearn a great many things in order to feel comfortable shipping this product.
Here’s hoping that Grunts 2 is better, and that it’s not just packed with more explosions, but with more immersion, precision, and fun.
- Maze

Grunts LoadingWarpack Grunts has some very nice touches, but unfortunately there are too many serious issues that mar this game and keep it from becoming a great game.

The first issue is a big one: Simply put, the viewable area in Grunts stinks.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying I want to see more terrain at a time, all I’m asking is that I be able to actually see my enemy before they start shooting at me.

I know, it sounds like a lot to ask, but in my opinion fun games are games where you actually have a chance at excellence.  I assure you, any soldier on a battlefield tends to see his target before he can fire on his target, much less be fired on by his target.

Playing Grunts feels like being a myopic soldier who had his Coke bottle glasses stomped on at the beginning of every mission, and it results in levels where you gauge the location of your enemy based on the velocity and angle of the exit wounds of your character…

The second issue is a big one too: The controls.  The controls in Grunts are as counterintuitive as it gets.  Let me break them down for you so you can understand just how terrible they are.

PROBLEM #1 – MOVEMENT

What’s that, you say?  Movement is a core gameplay mechanic?  Aye matey, it is. And yet on the iPhone, game developers insist on taking a perfectly good wheel and reinventing it to be a square.

In Grunts, you simply press and hold a finger on the screen where you would like your platoon to go.  Sounds easy, right?  Not so much.

Getting shot, from afar...To be fair, if the game were only about moving, then maybe, just maybe, this would have been acceptable, except the game is about moving and shooting…. with precision.

Tapping and holding on an intended destination and letting your platoon pathfind their way there is, in many situations, less than ideal. And let us not forget that double tapping fires your weapon which, suffice to say, stops you cold in your tracks.”

How many people enjoy playing shooting games where you must stop moving to shoot a weapon? (Okay, Resident Evil aside, which btw they have wonderful reasons for stopping before shooting, so we won’t get into that here.)

The controls are not only limiting, but they also remove the player from the action one step further by setting up this mechanism of waypoint tap travel coupled with double taps to fire.

PROBLEM #2 – FIRING

To fire in Grunts, you simply double tap your finger at your intended target.  Sounds easy, right?  Not so much.

Now please, take a moment and venture into Imaginationland with me…

Let’s imagine that you’re a sniper, and you finally have your target in your sights. You hold your breath, control your pulse, and double squeeze the trigger…  Double squeeze the what!… oh and remember to hold it down after the second squeeze for continuous fire!

Excuse me sir, but no.

How precise would you feel having to squeeze a trigger on a rifle twice to fire once?

Now remember that unlike a trigger on a rifle, your finger on an iPhone is not constrained to a mechanical linear path, but is instead free floating.  Double taps, coupled with remembering to hold your finger down after the second tap takes way too much mental overhead in the back of your mind.

So what are our suggestions to fix the controls?  How about this instead:

Just invisibly split the screen in half vertically:  Let the left half of the screen act as a touch analog stick for movement, and the right half as another touch analog stick that lets you point your weapon and fire.  (Think iDracula)

Now the game is immersive: you have direct control over your team, and you can even run and gun!

Couple this with a change in the enemy AI so that they don’t start firing until they can see you, or more specifically until you can actually see them, on the edge of your screen and you’ve got a fun, replayable game.

Grunts is a great idea, but due to some fundamental issues, it has extremely limited (re)play value.

The art throughout the game is fairly decent, and there are some truly wonderful touches like the trees swaying in the breeze and the sounds of the jungle.  However, when you compare this game to Wingnuts 2 (a true gem that I desperately want to see translated to the iPhone), it’s hard to believe that Freeverse was even involved in this project, as they would have had to unlearn a great many things in order to feel comfortable shipping this product.

Here’s hoping that Grunts 2 is better, and that it’s not just packed with more explosions, but with more immersion, precision, and fun.

- Maze

iBot by Alcomi

Update – this game appears to have been pulled from the App Store.
If you like logic games, iBot may have something for you. This game makes you think like a programmer. Fear not, though — it’s very easy to learn! I bought iBot on a whim, but once I started playing I couldn’t put it down. Still, for all it has going for it, there are some serious issues that will make you think twice before buying.

Read on for the full rundown.

Critter Crunch by Cappybara Games

Critter Crunch's graphics, animation, and sound really set the bar high.

Critter Crunch's graphics, animation, and sound really set the bar high.

Who needs another Bejeweled knockoff?   Not me, that’s for sure.  In fact, I passed Critter Crunch up when it first arrived in the App Store for that very reason.  So why even bother with it?  Well, as it turns out, this game offers so much more to the genre than matching similar shapes and colors.  Critter Crunch really steps it up a notch by bringing character and original (not to mention addicting) gameplay to the table.

Capybara Games is no lightweight.  A quick glance through their website reveals an impressive portfolio of mobile games.  But this is their first foray into the iPhone scene.  And with Critter Crunch tipping the scales at $7.99, it’s not an easy sell — especially with the App Store’s economy leveling out from the initial high prices.  With all the other quality games in the App Store to choose from, is Critter Crunch’s overweight price tag worth it?
Read on for the full rundown.

iTap by HLW

It would seem that the idea to create an app for controlling your computer using your iPhone or iPod Touch is a popular one among App Store developers.  Only three months after the App Store launch, there are already no less than 8 apps that do this.  With so much competition for such a specific utility, it’s hard to find one that really stands out against the rest.  Today I’m taking a look at iTap, one such app.

iTap's screen looks very much like a Macbook Pro track pad.

iTap's screen looks very much like a MacBook Pro track pad.

So what makes iTap so special?  Admittedly, it’s the only “track pad” app I’ve tried.  But there’s good reason for that.  You see, iTap is the only track pad app that supports both Windows and Mac operating systems.  This was a major requirement for me, since I spend plenty of time on both sides of the OS wars every day.  With pricing for this type of app ranging from $0.99 – $5.99, iTap hits the sweet spot at a reasonable $1.99.  But does it live up to its promises?
Read on for the full rundown

BibleReader (beta) from Olive Tree Bible Software

Verses in BibleReader are formatted well and include links to footnotes.

Verses in BibleReader are formatted well and include links to footnotes.

Olive Tree Bible Software already has several Bible apps and bundles, including one that’s free in the App Store [links open in iTunes]. With so many offerings in the App Store, you would think iPhone development is their primary business. But you would be wrong. The Spokane, WA company has been in the Bible software business for 20 years, and they have over 280 handheld Bible resources under their belt. With the reputation they’ve earned, you know their BibleReader app for iPhone and iPod Touch is going to be good.

I had been scouring the App Store for a good Bible app since it launched. Having used BibleReader on Windows Mobile, I had hopes for seeing it in the App Store. The moment I noticed the ESV Study Bundle, I bought it. It proved to be an excellent app (better than the other Bible apps I had tried), and eventually I managed to land a beta version of their upcoming release. Read on for the entire rundown