This is a combined review of 3 exciting games, we will be reviewing Anytime Pool, Apocalypse Max: Better Dead Than Undead & AR Defender 2

Anytime Pool

In the splurge of games EA released on the App Store last week, there were bound to be a couple of odds and ends that got mixed in with the heavy hitters. Little did we expect the best of these to be a pool game. Anytime Pool is more than just another game of billiards–its excellent presentation, stellar controls and unique features make it the best pool offering on the iPhone.

Everything about this game has been crafted to produce the smoothest play experience possible. The layout is very clear, and the controls work like a charm. Such features as zooming in on specific balls, choosing where the cue hits the ball, and making a pop or swerve shot are easy to use. The game’s three difficulty levels offer different amounts of assistance for aiming–easy displays multiple ricochets, medium offers just one and hard shows none at all. The system stretches to fit players of any skill level.

Anytime Pool packs three different pool variants to conquer: UK 8 Ball, US 8 Ball, and US 9 Ball. For those who don’t know much about pool, the two 8 Ball games are tweaked versions of classic pool and 9 Ball has you hitting all of the balls into the pockets in numerical order–the player who sinks the 9 ball first wins. Anytime Pool also features a unique set of challenge set-ups. In these, you must follow specific guidelines to succeed, such as only hitting a specific color ball. We really enjoyed the creativity and puzzle-like feel of these challenges.

The game’s multiplayer mode also adds a lot of value. Not only does it have standard pass and play, but cross-platform play between the iPhone and Facebook also is possible. When you open the game, it steps you through how to pair your Facebook page and iPhone via the Anytime Pool ‘app’ on Facebook. After you do this, your Facebook profile picture show ups as your player and you can play against all of your friends in turn-based matchups.

Anytime Pool also comes fully equipped with plenty of single player material. The main attraction is the game’s ‘World Tour,’ a collection of 16 pool matches and challenges against various CPU players. After each match you are given a rank, which you can raise later by challenging the player to a rematch. While the World Tour may sound more like a collection of quick matches on the surface, there is tons of depth in the customized strengths and weaknesses of each player.

Anytime Pool not only plays and looks great, but it also sounds great, thanks to some fantastic ambient effects. There’s an overlay of lively chatter in the background that gives the game a distinct pub-like feel. You’ll occasionally hear some guy hooting with laughter at some unheard joke. It’s a great touch.

If we had to pinpoint one issue with the game, it would be that instead of seeing the ball fall into the pocket, it just disappears. While this did not hurt the experience too much, it definitely seemed lazy and took away some of the satisfaction of making the perfect shot.

All in all, Anytime Pool is impressive. Its nearly flawless gameplay, superior Facebook integration and practically unlimited replay value make it a ‘Must Have’ in our book.

Apocalypse Max: Better Dead Than Undead

While there are about a zillion games on the App store featuring zombies, and the idea of playing another one may sound about as much fun as pulling teeth, sometimes a gem will come along that makes us take notice. ‘Apocalypse Max: Better Dead Than Undead’ by Wandake games is one such game. While it’s a pretty simplistic idea, this is one game that may make you overlook your zombie ennui.

The first thing you’re going to notice when you first start Max is that the game has some of the slickest graphics you’ve ever seen. Featuring 20 terrifying and huge levels for Max to plow through, you’ll swear you’re playing an Xbox Live game. You fight through lush, gaseous swamps, creepy and terrifying cemeteries and sterile-looking research facilities. The levels are all amazing looking. Detailed and multilayered, every grimy, dirty and nasty nook and cranny of this game has been lovingly hand-crafted and sometimes the backgrounds look like they were ripped straight from an old-school horror movie from the ’80s and ’90s. Production designers from Army of Darkness would be proud.

Just as much care has been given to your shambling enemy’s look as well. While there aren’t that many different looking zombies, the ones that are there all have a unique look to them. There are fat shambling butchers, giant undead cops with their guts hanging out, and knife throwing freaks with uncanny accuracy. You also fight against creepy looking pulsating vultures that drop exploding eggs and strange creepy, crawly spider things. Killing these guys is some of the most fun you’ll ever have, and the death animations, by the way, are some of the sickest and disturbingly enjoyable you’ll see. A jumping knife attack splits them vertically, and they spurt gallons of blood when you pelt them with bullets.

As good as the games looks, it plays even better. The controls just might be the best we’ve ever used for an iOS platformer. You have buttons for moving, jumping, firing your guns and changing weapons. For close combat you swipe your fingers left and right to use your knife to cut a swath through your brain eating-foes. The game uses an auto-aim function which really helps when things get too hectic, although it goes a little haywire when you’ve got enemies above and below you and it’s not sure where to aim. It also takes some practice getting used to the jumping and swiping combinations if you want to get really good with the knife. But once you do get used to it, it’s like second nature and you find yourself pureeing zombies with glee.

As you play through the game you find gold in boxes, coffins, lockers, and enemies drop it too. You can use this cash in-between levels to buy better weapons, ammo, grenades and health. You can also spend real-world money to get more gold, but we never felt like we needed to do this. We made it through the game just fine while using gold we found while playing.

Apocalypse Max is right up there with games like League of Evil 2. It is one of the very best platformers out there, if not the best. The graphics are fantastic, the controls are a dream and the action is sharp and fun. Our only real problem with the game is that it’s somewhat short, and there’s not a whole lot of replay value. That being said, if you want to play one of the very best games for the platform (or any platform for that matter) than you can’t do much better than this one.

AR Defender 2

As the title suggests, AR Defender 2 is basically a tower-defense game with a twist: Using the camera of your iDevice, you can bring the action of the game into your surroundings. However, this doesn’t do much to affect the gameplay, and while a neat flourish to set it apart from other games of the genre, the need to print out or create your own AR tag can make the feature a bit of a hassle.

At the same time, one can only imagine what could be done with a sufficiently large enough AR tag and just the right camera angle, similar to what some people have done with the AR reader on the Nintendo 3DS. Though this is one mad science experiment we’ve not been able to partake in, feel free to let us know if you decide to try it!

As for the game itself, it can be played without the AR feature, and is a basic tower defense game, albeit with a more three-dimensional aspect as enemies come from all sides to destroy your generator in the center. You use coins to strategically put up various defense towers in different parts of the map, and though you’re only allowed four at one time, you can upgrade or combine different types of tower components.

Unfortunately, the game feels a little limited in some ways as you need to unlock a lot of the arsenal or the various heroes, who require lots of the rather rare gems to purchase. This can make the early going feel tedious as the variety can be a little bit lacking. Your efforts are further hindered by a somewhat iffy touch interface where collecting coins is concerned; sometimes they are gathered without any problem, but during ‘coin frenzies’ after each round, they seem more difficult to pick up.

AR Defender 2 isn’t a bad game, but it takes patience to peel back the layers and get to the meatier bits of game. It also seems to have some persistent crashing problems, most notably when you click on the ‘Armory’  tab before a mission.

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