REVIEW: Old Man’s Journey

  • Released: 2017
  • Played on: Android
  • Also available on: iOS, PC, Mac
  • Time to get into: 5 minutes
  • Time to complete: 1.5 hours
  • Multiplayer: No

The idea of paying for a mobile game up front can seem odd these days. The vast majority of games on the Play Store and App Store let you get started initially and then either demand that you pay up to continue or put regular road blocks in your way and make it clear that paying money would make your life easier. Old Man’s Journey acts more like a console game in this aspect, expecting you to pay just under £5 before letting you download. Don’t let this put you off – this is very much a ‘mobile’ experience but it’s very much worth the money. There are two aspects in play here – the gameplay and the narrative – and it’s mainly the latter that takes this from brief distraction to great experience in it’s own right.

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Gameplay
The game is very simple at it’s core. Most of the time you are altering the landscape to allow the eponymous Old Man (we never learn his name, or those of the other characters) to travel from one side of the screen to the other. This involves working out, for example, how to get sheep to move to another hill to let him past or joining up train tracks to allow his train to keep moving. Whilst it is all very basic the game retains your interest by a combination of gentle guidance and simple charm. Anything that needs to be clicked on is usually moving or lit up slightly or something else that let’s you know to interact with it without taking you out of the experience. If you ask your Man to walk somewhere he can’t get he’ll react with a sort of ‘huh?’ with a question mark over his head – letting you know you’ve done it wrong without actually saying that or punishing you at all. In terms of charm it drips from every pore of Old Man’s Journey. Even aside from the storyline, the cute graphics, the endearing body language of the Old Man and the wonderful soundtrack all add up to a well made and engaging game.
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Narrative
The gameplay is really just a vessel in which to place a delightful and meaningful story and tell it in a subtle and wonderful way. I’d venture to say I’ve never come across a mobile game with such emphasis on the story – certainly not one that does it so well anyway. I don’t want to give anything away here in order to not ruin it but if you’ve seen the Disney movie Up then you’ll know the kind of tender, bittersweet storytelling you can expect. If not you’ll just have to trust me that it’s wonderful and you should experience it without any preconceptions!
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Verdict
Without the fantastically engaging narrative Old Man’s Journey would probably not have enough gameplay to stand up. However, that gaming is in fact the perfect compliment to the most wonderful storytelling I’ve come across on mobile. Totally worth the price of entry.
Review5

Mobile Golf: Mario Golf & Golf Zero

I’ve been casually playing two different golf games recently. I won’t get deep enough into either to be in a position to fully review them so I thought a comparison post might suffice.

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I have regularly enjoyed golf games since playing Tiger Woods 2005 – I really think the sport translates better into playing a video game than onto TV to watch (and I won’t go into my ability, or lack thereof, at the real thing!). The challenge to your skill is significant but not under any time pressure – a rare thing in sports and sports video games.

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The two games I’m currently playing are Mario Golf World Tour on the 2DS and Golf Zero on my phone.
Mario Golf World TourHNI_0001 Despite the analog stick on the 2DS this game doesn’t use any kind of motion control, instead opting for the usual press-a-button-as-a-slider-moves-along-the-screen concept. Even so this works well and once you’ve got the basics you find that the things you have to consider – how hard you hit it, topspin, fairways and bunkers etc – are reasonably close to those you’d face in a proper golf sim. Of course this game is not that and it brings all the usual Mario charm to proceedings.

Golf ZeroScreenshot_20170626-125909This game, on the other hand, is about as far away from a golf sim as it is possible to go and still use the word golf to describe your game! It’s a platformer combined with a kind of extreme golf. You end up taking your shots whilst in the air plummeting towards the sea. Really, it defies explanation, so watch this video for an example of what I mean:

Golf Zero from The Gamer Boys on Vimeo.

I consider both of these games just brief distractions from life and from my main gaming due to their relative lack of depth and repetitiveness. But that said, I would still recommend either game to anyone looking for just such a distraction. Whilst a couple hours spent hunting in an open world or thrashing around a track in a driving game endurance race are fantastic, sometimes a quick ten minutes hitting a small white ball about the place is just what is required!

REVIEW: Magikarp Jump

A common issue with mobile games from gaming franchises is that they end up basically being stripped down versions of their regular cousins. Think Sonic Dash or every mobile EA Sports game ever.
Magikarp Jump has such charm that for a while it seems that it might defy that stereotype. Ultimately, however, it remains exactly that: a throw-away mobile version of a proper game – all surface and no substance.

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Much like every other Pokemon game Magikarp Jump involves levelling up your Pokemon and battling against others. It’s Magikarp only around here and the battles are to see how high each can jump – hence the name of the game. You fish for a new Magikarp, train it, feed it and then take it into battle. Eventually that one will retire and you’ll fish out another and go through the same process again.

So far so good. The training, battling and the ‘random encounters’ that pop up after each of these things are all light-hearted and goofy. The graphics are bright and simple. What the game does particularly well is not have any natural stopping points – there are always more battles or training sessions or even just food to eat, so it can be quite addictive.

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Eventually though, the novelty wears off and the charm runs out and you realise that fairly early on the game has run out of ideas. Classic mobile game problem! Magikarp Jump’s issue is that it shows it’s hand too early. Just when the game should be going up to another level it becomes a grind of continually repeating screen presses. It moves from being a game you play to being something you tend to, like you would a plant on your window sill.

Verdict
Whether it’s that Magikarp Jump shows you everything it has to offer straight away or whether it is simply that it doesn’t have enough to offer in the first place, it’s an experience that simply doesn’t last long enough to justify the level of enjoyment it brings. ‘Briefly amusing’ is not what good games are made of.

Review2

Brick Breaking Nostalgia

One of the first video games I ever played was a brick breaking game on a family friend’s IBM computer back in the early 90s. It was called Paranoid and to me it was a revelation.

I’d played a brick breaking game on the Acorn computers at my school but that game was more about creating chaos with multiple balls and all kinds of crazy effects. On the other hand, Paranoid was a game that required skill and I believe it was the first game I ever completed.

So, I was pleased recently to come across another brick breaking game on Google PlayBrick Breaker Star: Space King.

Brick Breaking Nostalgia from The Gamer Boys on Vimeo.

As these games go there is nothing unique or brilliant about Space King but I’ve been really enjoying the trip down memory lane. Mobile is in many ways the perfect place for these games, as they aren’t memory or processor intensive enough to need a dedicated console. However, there is one flaw I’ve found in this: by necessity, touch control is used to move the ‘bat’ around the bottom of the screen to bounce the ball off – this makes it too easy! You can move your thumb (or finger, depending on playing style) from one side to the other almost instantaneously which makes things like the decision to go for a power up and risk losing the ball less dramatic than it used to be.

Paranoid used the two shift keys on each side of the keyboard to move the bat slowly left and right, so you had to slightly plan ahead for where you need it to be.

Some things just aren’t built the same way any more!

(check out an old page I found about Paranoid here)

First Impressions: Magikarp Jump

Any new Pokemon game needs to be checked out right?! Magikarp Jump is no different. As usual for a Pokemon game it more or less defies explanation and yet is still brilliant!

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The gameplay is super simple – basically just press on areas of the screen in sequence is what it ultimately boils down to! And yet it is really really addictive. Between fishing for a new Magikarp, naming it, feeding it, training it, battling with it and all the other bits of the game related to collecting coins and diamonds the game doesn’t have any natural stopping points and so you just want to keep on playing – on and on!

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I’ll give it the full review treatment after I’ve played it more but given that it is free to play (with in-app purchases if you are impatient!) I’d highly recommend picking it up on your phone or tablet.

 

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The race to 9999

When I first started playing Super Mario Run for myself (after initially only playing it with The Boy) I looked at Toad Rally and thought ‘how will I ever get to 9,999 toads? That’s such a lot of gaming’.

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Two things have changed since then. Firstly, Nintendo have taken the cap off and so players have numbers in the 10,000s etc now! Secondly, I find that I am already two thirds of the way there:

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And why? Because the game is just so so good! Other than the need for an internet connection which makes it hard to play when commuting it’s a perfectly formed mobile game and well worth a place on my all time top games list.

Generally I think of mobile games as just games to play when I have some time to pass and no console available. Super Mario Run’s presence on that list shows that in fact, I would actually still play it even if I had the opportunity to play a so called ‘proper game’. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Both the ‘Tour’ and the ‘Rally’ modes would be fantastic games in their own right.

Super Mario Run – Toad Rally Star from The Gamer Boys on Vimeo.

Let the race to 9,999 (and beyond?) continue!