For every classic game to hit the virtual shelves, there are hundreds of dull, flat and frankly mundane alternatives but when you dig that extra bit deeper, you will find those apps so bad, so disappointing or generally abominable that anger is your only possible response! Do you agree?
Yep, you read that correctly; ‘Chair Simulator’. Now, how dare anyone claim the gaming industry is out of ideas!
The modern gaming world is a curious beast. With it, we’re able to explore the depth of outer space, wander rolling hills in unimaginable lands, wield a variety of weapons and engage in combat with mythical beasts. And sit on chairs. Indeed, good people, for now we have a Chair Simulator. Branded as ‘an exciting single-player adventure for Windows and MacOS that puts the players right into the sitting seat’, Chair Simulator goes above and beyond your average simulator and lets you sit on a wide range of chairs. You start the game by selecting your character from a choice of 14 unique individuals, each replete with a brief backstory. From there, you’re placed in your rather sparse living room, with a single chair for company. Use the keyboard to approach the chair and – now be careful, as this next part is tricky – press ‘E’ to sit down. And there you’ll sit. And sit. And sit. Meanwhile, at the top of the screen your Pain-In-The-Ass-O-Meter slowly rises. As it increases, you gain Sitpoint coins. If you sit for too long, though, you begin to get uncomfortable, and the points accumulation slows down. If you sit for too long, you die and lose all your Sitpoints and so-far collected chairs. So here’s the crux of the game. You sit and gain points, but don’t sit too long or you’ll die. Once you have enough points you can leave your front door and go to the MSCHF Home Furnishings store, where you can use those Sitpoint coins to buy an upgraded chair. Get it home and sit on it to earn more points.
Naturally, the more expensive the chair, the more you can sit on it and gain Sitpoint coins (in most circumstances). Earn 50 of this unique currency and you can buy a camping chair; earn 800 and you can splash out on the Iron Throne; 1250 and you can have a toilet, or the electric chair (watch out, the electric chair is exceedingly uncomfortable, but you gain a lot of points for sitting on it). I won’t blame you for thinking I’ve made all this up, but I haven’t. Honest. This game really does exist and like all one note jokes outstays its welcome beyond it’s “Really?” bout of curiosity. So, to conclude, if you feel the need to while away the minutes in a post-Covid world, playing a game that has you sitting on different kinds of chairs while buying more from an IKEA-like chair department store, then my friend, Chair Simulator is for you. We came, we saw, we sat, and quickly became the butt of everyone’s jokes.
Do you want to relive those moments of utter desperation when you had nothing else to do at work?
The grid-based puzzle game Minesweeper has been around since the 1960s, starting life on mainframe computers. The version we’re most familiar with appeared on MS-DOS and Windows computers where it became part of the OS itself, accessible to all users for free. It was a short-lived but fondly remembered experience, which in non-rose tinted reality was little more than the last resort when you were starved of other gameplay options on your DOS desktop. The gameplay, for the uninitiated, has the player plot a course across a grid, avoiding the mines that litter the board. To find a ‘new,’ updated version of this game on iOS is a bit confusing, even more so when the developers have employed a pay-to-continue mechanic in a test-of-memory puzzle game. So what’s new in this updated version? The core gameplay remains the same, of course. There has been some additions in the form of a series of pointless themed non-interactive backgrounds upon which the play grid sits. The player can create their own play boards, with an up to 99 x 99 grid, which can be used to challenge a second player should they find one who is so like-minded.
The overwhelming feeling this game generates is a lack of interest. You can add as many ill-fitting themed backgrounds as you like, and make the grid the size of the UK itself, but this is still just Minesweeper, a game that reached its peak decades a go. Even those most desperate for a revisit will find numerous and completely free alternatives on the App Store, so in conclusion, go straight for the mines and put a quick end to the apathy. One positive it really does perfectly recapture the awful, boredom steeped feelings of having nothing better to do than play Minesweeper; memories best forgotten.
Crash Bandicoot: On The Run!
The beloved gaming icon returns to mobile, but maybe it would’ve been better if he hadn’t?!
The endless runner is a genre that’s become embedded in gaming on touchscreen platforms. The reason is simple. The control input lends itself perfectly to mobile devices and is easily exploited via the fingertips. The ease of access for developers has made this the genre of choice for a quick-fix release. That’s not to say it cannot excite and evolve, although one can safely state the large majority of releases are repetitive, and happy to follow the genre’s constraints and not push against them. There are highlights, but for every Temple Run or Minion Rush, there are numerous failures and licensed shuffleware attempts at milking a well known franchise. This segues nicely to the subject of this review, King’s Crash Bandicoot: On the Run. Starting life as a 3D platform game on the original PlayStation, the titular bandicoot has achieved great and well deserved success with gamers and critics. After the initial disappointment that Crash was heading back to iOS as an endless runner and not a ‘real’ instalment in the franchise, I returned to the original releases via the HD remastered re-release on home consoles and the prospect of a endless runner in this universe started to actually sound rather inviting. After all, some of Crash’s most memorable console moments came in the form of out-of-the-screen chase sequences akin to the endless runner. Their reproduction, albeit extended, on mobile could surely offer an experience of great merit. Maybe the developers could add in some 2D side-scrolling sections like SEGA’s excellent Sonic Runners Adventures or Nintendo’s Mario Run. Sadly, the reality is far less appealing. The finished game is a bizarre fusion of endless runner and RPG character development centred around an ill-fitting hub area. The thrill of the endless runner is the idea of a non-stop never-ending gameplay experience; one that pushes the player to edge further and further with each play. Not here. The running sections now end after a few minutes of play, with the player facing off against an end-of-level boss. These battles are as badly conceived as the now-ending runner stages.
Although pitched as a test of skill, much like a power bar in a golf game, the player’s interaction has zero effect on the end result. Success is guaranteed, no matter where you land on the skill bar. It would be easy to forgive such an obvious gameplay oversight had the running itself been challenging or at the very least fun. But no! The core gameplay is frankly as dull as it is sluggish. Everything feels at half speed, and the flat level design offers little in the way of a challenge, making the developer’s choice to have the player repeat the same levels over and over to enable progression even more questionable.Adding to the general sense of indifference, the hub world is equally unexciting, bringing the low-speed gameplay to a painful stop. In-app purchases can speed up this numbing, grinding process. Maybe that’s the developers’ motivation to makes things so mundane? Scrolling around the same two or three areas, making the same selections and finishing up running the same limited amount of levels and non-battling the same re-skinned bosses does little to inspire replays, but leads to many groans of annoyance! There are a few moments of redemption; a few! The addition of a more genre-suitable Survival Runs option is welcome, and the potentially interesting competitive multiplayer mode turns the head, but these are far from enough to warrant a recommendation. Fans may also find some joy in the way the distinct visual and sonic styles have been incorporated into the game, as well as the pleasantly large cast that have made their way to this edition. Unfortunately, these positives fail to provide balance with the vast amount of negatives. Crash Bandicoot: On the Run left us to ponder quite how the developers have managed to get such a simplistic genre so badly wrong? The expectations of this sub-genre are largely ignored. It’s not fast, it’s not exciting, it’s not really Crash. It’s sluggish! It’s lazy! It’s a delivery platform for in-app purchases presented in a polished shell, and that’s just not enough! Bandicoot deserves so much better than this; as does his fanbase. Strip away the trademark visuals and excellent soundtrack and you have an interchangeable and frankly well below average endless runner.
Judge Dredd: Crime Files
I am the law, punk. Believe it! This game is utter crud you can also believe that!
From the pages of 2000AD to the mobile screens of today comes the legendary lawman Judge Dredd, in a zarjaz original tale from current Dredd writers. A card-collecting RPG, you get to build a deck of Dredd’s iconic weapons, including the Lawgiver, Lawrod, Stubb Gun and Daystick, along with a range of unarmed attacks to use on unsuspecting perps. It’s free to play, but you can spend real-world money on extra cards if you wish. Dredd and his world are well drawn, but barely animated, presumably to retain the comic-book styling. Dredd is voiced too, but it sounds more like your dad doing an impression of a tough guy than Mega City One’s greatest judge barking out his orders.
But the game’s real problem is it’s dull. Whether you’re beating a perp into submission, shooting lawbreakers before they can shoot you or interrogating suspects to gain clue cards, the game mechanic remains the same; drag cards onto your enemy. Over and over again. By all means give it a go if you’re a Dredd fan, but you’ll probably tire of it long before you’d consider buying a card pack. It’s great to see Judge Dredd return to the iPhone, but this dull crim sim won’t hold your attention for long. It’s one for the iso-cubes rather than the Grand Hall of Justice.
Dull! Definitely a word one would never associate with the best puzzle if not best game of all time?
For a long time, I ignored the advice: “The app is best experienced via headphones.” And that was silly of me. Audio hasn’t played a huge role in my mobile gaming. Let me explain. The touchscreen of my iPad, or iPhone, activates an invisible barrier between myself and my wife’s inane droning, aka telling me about her day. The inclusion of sound would break the spell and alert her of my utter lack of interest and force me to pay attention. Having the realisation that sound – via headphones of course – plays such an important role in the immersion into my gaming has done little to improve communication with my spouse. Yet it’s a small price to pay to experience mobile games as they were intended. Having stressed how audio can enhance a game, I believe we have a first with the latest incarnation of the puzzle-classic Tetris to hit iOS. This game needs a start-up message stating, “The game is best experienced with the volume off.” After the announcement that EA’s various versions of Tetris were being removed from the App Store, there were high hopes that the next developer to pick up this golden goose of gaming would maintain the high standard of its predecessor.
The simple fact is that Tetris is one of the most intense games ever to stand front and centre with EA’s titles, with both the visuals and the sound reflecting this. These games were Tetris at its most exciting and overblown and were brilliant. Alas, this version takes the opposite route and attempts to rebrand Tetris as a chill-out game. The customisable (at a price) visuals are flat and uninspired, even down to the trope of offering a Game Boy black-and-white version. As for the sonics and the soundtrack, they’re more akin to a 4 am ambient set on an Ibiza beach, not a thrilling puzzle game. Ill-conceived feels generous. With the audio off, the core gameplay still holds the attention, but if that’s the best compliment I can think to offer a Tetris game, something has gone very wrong. Imagine the stalking/attack scenes from “Jaws” overlaid with the “Baby Shark” song, not the classic score. I’m not sure it would have the same effect?