This is a combined review of 3 exciting games, we will be reviewing Bank Rush, Baseball Superstars 2013 & Battle Bears

Bank Rush

The free flying game Bank Rush reminds us a bit of the music video for PSY’s Gangnam Style: It looks like the cartoon that caps off the video, it’s wacky and random with a sly, antisocial sense of humor, and we can’t stop hitting the “replay” button for more.

Avko Labs really hit it out of the park with their latest game, which has you playing as a bank robber who gets another chance to earn a few bucks when he breaks out of jail. You begin the game by launching yourself with a slingshot between the sawed-off bars of your jail cell window. Once you’re airborne, you can land on prisoners in the exercise yard and maintain your momentum just enough to crash through the bank doors that are conveniently located next to the jail.

Inside the bank, you’ve got a few seconds for a mad cash grab before you crash through the exit and out into the streets. Here you’ll land on the heads of ordinary citizens (some of whom are carrying wheelbarrows full of cash, or lit sticks of dynamite) to raise your haul even more.

On your first few dozen attempts, you probably won’t make much progress. You’ll either bounce along the ground and come to a painful stop, accidentally land in an open grave, or get picked up by the police. But each run earns you more and more coins, which can be used to improve your performance. You can hire a burly cellmate to launch you even further, or spruce up the rocket shoes that will give you a mid-air boost. You can also increase the frequency of helpful power-ups, like explosives, flapping pelicans, hang-gliders, and a deadly steel ball.

The appeal of this game is in earning as much money as possible through repeated attempts, and each flight manages to feel unique due to the randomness of the power-ups. On one run, you may catch a rocket and slam through the bank doors without any effort. The next time around, you may find yourself bouncing on citizens’ heads to fill up a fireball meter, earning you more money without actually beating your distance record.

Hours into the game, you’ll still discover a few new tricks. You can hang-glide into the clouds and fly down as an angel of death, swooping in with wings and a halo for a few brief seconds of carnage. And if you collect a million coins, you can unlock an airplane that will whisk you all the way to freedom.

We only have two complaints with this game, and that’s the fairly poor English text and distasteful use of the word “cripple” to describe people in wheelchairs. But those can be easily fixed in an update, if the developers are willing. The core gameplay is outstanding, and we got more entertainment and amusement from this free app than we have from a lot of paid games. Bank Rush is a Must Have download, and since it’s free, it’s a game everyone should play.

Baseball Superstars 2013

Like clockwork, a new year ushers in a new spin on Baseball Superstars, the preeminent baseball franchise on iOS. Known for its unique take on combining cute anime-style presentation with deep RPG elements, the series has amazed us by finding new ways to stay engaging over the years. Baseball Superstars 2013 makes some some noteworthy changes this time around, but we’re not so sure if those changes were for the better.

Whereas last year’s offering served up a plethora of single player and network enabled modes to explore, Baseball Superstars 2013 has taken a step back to focus on the single player experience through the My Pitcher and My Batter Modes. No longer can you play regular exhibition games where you control all three phases of the game in pitching, batting, and fielding. Through My Pitcher and My Batter, you develop a player and exclusively play as that player in isolated scenarios.

All the action not involving your player is simulated, so on many levels, you don’t feel like you have the control to affect the game like before. To be fair, there are several RPG elements that are fun like leveling up, training to build specific attributes, and the usual banter that occurs between your coaches and fellow teammates throughout the season. The gravitational pull of the My Pitcher and My Batter modes is to accomplish seasonal goals and transform into a Hall of Fame player through yearly excellence.

Mechanically speaking, Baseball Superstars is a mixed bag unfortunately. Swinging the bat feels better than ever. With a zoomed in camera angle getting you closer to the batter this year, we found it easier to do pitch recognition and swing with much more precision. Whether we’d hit a solid home run or strike out, the outcomes always felt fair and reflective of nailing the timing or being a millisecond off.

Pitching is the area that is highly disappointing this year. Had we not spent hours locked in with the fantastic swipe pitching from Baseball Superstars 2012, the pitching in this year’s version could be forgivable. Instead of the extremely precise swipe method, Gamevil decided to slap on a virtual D-pad to aim your pitches. Once you aim your pitch, you have to time the throw button to accurately place the ball. These changes make for a more cumbersome pitching experience, and we wonder why changes were made to such an amazing touchscreen tailored mechanic from last year. This is a perfect example of making changes just to make a change. As a result, we found ourselves spending more time in My Batter mode this go-around.

If there is one thing you can expect will be consistently great in a Baseball Stars game, it is the presentation. As usual, the game looking like a living breathing cartoon with crisp colors and fluid animations. This is a universal app that is playable on both iPhone and iPad devices, and if we can nitpick here, you can certainly tell the game is not running at native resolution on a retina-powered iPad. Nothing big, but certainly worth pointing out.

The last issue we’d be remiss not to point out are the weird decisions made on the online feature set of the game. The game promotes itself as offering “competitive PVP baseball,” but that is very misleading. Baseball Superstars 2012 had stellar real-time network play, but this year’s edition has you playing ghosts of other players. Granted you’re either pitching or hitting against other people’s created characters, but the feeling rings hollow and ultimately disappointing.

Additionally, the free-to-play nature of the game means getting prompts to buy points relentlessly while also being subjected to annoying pop-up ads for other Gamevil titles. Like last year, earning points to upgrade your players takes patience and time. Finally, the game requires you to be tethered to an online connection to play the game. Those of you with iPhones should be fine, but you can forget about diving in using your iPad during that trip on the bus.

Baseball Superstars 2013 is a competent and fun baseball title that is still heads and shoulders above what other developers are putting out. But for the first time ever in a Baseball Superstars game, we feel more compelled to fire up last year’s version instead.

Battle Bears

There’s more than one way to kill a teddy bear. At least there is in Battle Bears, a clever shooter from SkyVu Pictures.

You play as Oliver, a foul-mouthed brown teddy bear who has just made off with a wagon full of gold and mystical treasures. You’re being chased by a horde of fluffy pink teddy bears whose sole goal is to hug you to death. ‘Hug me’ they call, over and over again, in a high-pitched voice.

When your unicorn-drawn cart crashes, you’re forced to take cover. After firing off a string of expletives, the game begins with you shooting at wave after wave of cuddly enemies.

Killing these possessed children’s toys is great fun. Body shots cause neon blood to gush out, while headshots make the head pop off and rainbows come out of the neck stump. The colorful deaths and high-pitched, cartoonish death cries contrast nicely with the serious battle music playing in the background

There are a number of weapons you can use to ward off the marauding pink bears, including a rifle with unlimited ammo, a unicorn horn crossbow and a bearzooka, which shoots pink teddy bear limbs. Each of the five levels, made up of four stages each, unlocks a new weapon you can use to attack or defend against the enemy bears. Every stage gets progressively harder, with more bears coming at you faster.

Battle Bears manages to provide a good challenge without being frustrating. In addition to the dozens of pink teddy bears you must continually fight off, occasionally super speedy orange bears or lumbering, gigantic blue bears will show up to provide some variety.

There is no way to save your progress, though, so if you get hugged to death halfway through the game, you must start over again from the beginning. This can get annoying, but the game is so much fun to replay that it’s not a big problem.

One of the more interesting features are the two shooting styles. You can either have your gun fire bullets automatically while you set your sights on the bears, or you can select the relative option, which allows you to aim and then tap to fire. This acts like a sniper mode, having you shoot the bears carefully instead of mowing them down. Though this mode is more difficult to master, the aiming is a bit more choppy than in absolute mode, and it can be a bit slow to pan left and right across the screen.

We won’t spoil the ending for you, but Oliver’s hatred of the pink teddy bears is never fully explained. We will say that Battle Bears gives you a very twisted ending to a delightfully twisted game. Beating the game also opens up survival mode, which allows you to fight wave after wave of enemy teddy bears.

Battle Bears is a fantastic shooter with wide appeal. Its easy-to-use controls make it a good introduction to survival shooters, while the challenging stages offer something for the more seasoned player. SkyVu promises future updates, new levels, and even a film based on Battle Bears. We enjoyed this game and look forward to any new developments. 

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