This is a combined review of 3 exciting games, we will be reviewing Ark of Sinners Advance,Artist Colony & Assassin’s Creed 2 Discovery
Ark of Sinners Advance is a game that very desperately wants to fill your Metroidvania needs, and it has elements in place to seemingly make it work. It has an appealing art style, huge levels to explore, and lots of combat options. Unfortunately, none of these components add up to anything interesting, and we ended up wondering why a game that started out its life as a critically savaged Wii-Verse title from two years ago would get ported to iOS without fixing at least some of the things that made the console version so very, very terrible.
From the very beginning, we got a whiff of trouble. The story, which finds our heroine Celia lost in a mysterious city, is filled with nonsensical Anime claptrap and is told through a series of boring and silly cutscenes that had us rolling our eyes so much we started to get a headache. The developers may have thought they were making something dark and mysterious and intriguing, but to us it just felt like an episode of Pokemon with a dominatrix instead of Pikachu.
We could even handle a ridiculous storyline if the gameplay was any good, but Ark of Sinners seems hellbent on making you hate yourself for spending your three bucks. The controls are slow and barely responsive. When Celia jumps, she floats in long arcs with very little control, so any kind of precision you may require simply isn’t going to happen. And this is a problem in a game that’s filled with pits you need to jump over, countless platforms you need to navigate and enemies you need to battle. You honestly might have better luck aiming for the things you’re trying to avoid.
Combat is so bad that you might as well not even bother doing anything other than mashing the action buttons with a mallet and hoping for the best. Celia’s sluggishness, combined with buttons that are barely functional and badly placed, means that success is largely based on luck rather than skill. You can spend points you earn in the game to purchase combos to do in combat, but you might not as well not even bother seeing as how your ability to pull them off with any degree of regularity is hampered by the fact that Celia is aggressively unresponsive.
When enemies (which are numerous) hit Celia (which occurs often), they tend to send her careening clear across the screen. Most of the time she’ll get launched into other enemies or pits of death. Either way, you’re gonna have a bad time. And if Celia actually does manage to stay on the screen after being hit (which usually only happens because of the artificial barriers the game likes to pop up) then her lackadaisical attitude to doing anything, like standing up for example, will usually result in her getting trapped in a corner to get pummeled again and again. Enemies also respawn, so if for some reason you go back to an area you barely survived (because, lets say, another enemy knocked you back to that area), you’re in for a treat. Wash, rinse, die, repeat.
The game also has one of the most obnoxious cameras we’ve ever encountered in a game. It has a tendency to swoosh over quickly in the direction that Celia is running, and this causes enemies, dangerous pits and platforms she needs to jump on to get obscured by objects in the foreground.
We find it kind of inconceivable that anyone thought porting Ark of Sinners would be a good idea. But hey, if you’re going to port over a game, why not do one that’s almost universally hated? You’ve got nowhere to go but up, right? The parties responsible have eschewed any sense of logic with this release and have brought a game to iOS that’s an unplayable, boring, senseless, almost careless mess of a game.
If you never used the rosebud (infinite money) cheat in The Sims, you might have done what Artist Colony has you do: control a group of simulated characters struggling to get by in life. In this case, instead of encouraging your Sims to go out and get mundane jobs to earn money, you control a group of struggling artists primarily dependent on the whims of rich old men who occasionally visit and make offers on your artists’ masterpieces.
The story of Artist Colony is about an artistic commune that used to belong to three people, who had a dramatic love triangle that ended in a fiery disaster for the colony. One of their children comes back to the colony with the intent of recovering the past and rebuilding the colony to its former glory. Starting out with two people, you are tasked with creating an inspiring colony, rebuilding the studios, and luring more artists to come and add to the colony’s art and drama.
Artists occasionally fall in love with each other, and when this happens, you can drag artists onto each other to see if the feeling is mutual. Their inspiration is affected in some way afterwards, whether the characters are walking around with their heads in the clouds or walking downtrodden in a sepia-colored world. So, emotional sensitivity of artists captured? Check.
Apart from love and sorrow, the colony falls into disrepair if left alone, so you have the responsibility of making sure the artists keep up with the menial labor as well, lest they lose inspiration from staring at rubble. Each artist has two specialties to train and create masterpieces in, as well as meters indicating energy and inspiration.
There’s always enough going on to keep busy, but not so much that it feels hectic. If it ever does get overwhelming, the game has different speed settings as well as behavior settings for each character, so it always feels manageable. Characters come to the colony as it grows, but sadly you can’t name them or customize them in any way, which leaves it feeling a bit less personal.
Besides the lack of customization, our only complaint is that the plot leaves something to be desired. Cutscenes have awkwardly long pauses in them, and the characters look a bit like bobbleheads as they stand around exchanging lame, emotional speeches.
Artist Colony has charming character, and despite the lackluster plot, it’s one of the most addicting sims we’ve played on the iDevice. The game acts as a time vacuum as it pulls you into the constantly-increasing goals of the striving and struggling artists. The clever concept is complemented well by the smooth design, and we highly recommend it to any budding artist or reasonably creative person.
Updated, optimized ports of games from other handheld consoles are in no way a new concept for the iPhone. Assassin’s Creed 2 Discovery follows the first game in that it was originally on the DS, but brought over with some iPhone-specific features. We enjoyed the time we spent with this console tie-in, but it does fall a bit short of our top score.
Instead of the 3D side-scrolling action of the first portable Assassin’s Creed, Discovery is played in run-and-jump platformer style. By means of a horizontal slider, you control shadowy killer Ezio Auditore da Firenze as he sweeps through towns and over rooftops at blazing speeds, assassinating unaware enemies along the way.
Depending on how far you drag the slider, Ezio moves with variable speeds. Running into objects and walls allow you to climb them. The rest of your work is done by pressing action buttons for sword-based combat, interacting with the environment, and throwing daggers.
Controlling Ezio felt fluent and swift, because AC2 Discovery excels at creating a sense of speed. The super-smooth frame rate and quick animations never failed to excite us. However, this immersion is often broken through combat, assassination scenes, and other obstacles. Due to the fact that the majority of levels include enemies, there are far fewer chances to experience the soaring sense of speed than we would have liked.
Discovery has three types of missions: normal, chase, and stealth. Normal levels usually have the most variety and can be explored at your leisure. The tasks in these vary from consulting with allies to simply reaching the end of the level by any means possible.
Chase missions come in two varieties. The first is an escape where constant streams of arrows fly behind you. Ezio must avoid fighting with guards in order to escape alive. The other chase is a race against a rogue whose speed matches your own. In order to outrun her, you must find an alternative route over the buildings. Stealth missions are much like normal missions, but if you are seen four times, it’s game over. These tend to be extremely challenging, perhaps too much so, breaking the level-to-level difficulty balance.
The main campaign in Discovery is set across eight ‘memory blocks’, or chapters, each containing about five missions. Playing through all this generally takes about four to five hours. Replay value is added through Animus Hacks, which are a collection of cheats, character skins, and difficulty levels that can be bought with Synch points, the in-game currency awarded at the end of each level. Achievements are also present if you need to feel compelled to beat the game completely.
Discovery’s story isn’t anything to write home about, but if you’re familiar with the console game, it does provide a nice side-story. Ezio is recruited to help free his fellow assassins from their captors, and in the process discovers a Templar plan that must be stopped. The cutscenes include borderline cheesy voice acting and must be tapped through, which made watching them a bit tedious.
While Discovery runs smoothly, it comes at the price of the graphics. The 3D models themselves aren’t bad, but the lack of textures in the environment made them feel bland. On top of this, while you travel through a variety of cities with distinct cultures, almost all of them look the same.
Also in need of a graphical revamp are the menus, which are clunky and unattractive. While we understand that the resolution of the in-game graphics may have been toned down to improve the speed, having such basic menus made the game feel void of any last-minute polish.
If you enjoy the Assassin’s Creed games on console, we think this iPhone game will appeal to you. The recognizable cast of characters, unlockable bonus art, and story all complement the console game. If you don’t fall into that category but are looking for a fresh platformer, Discovery is still a solid choice.