Contributing Writer with the 148Apps Network since August 16, 2010
Mild mannered programmer by day; gamer, podcaster, and writer by night. Blake is a staff writer for 148Apps, as well as the Managing Editor at GamesAreEvil.com. He also co-hosts and produces the EvilCast Recap podcast with fellow gaming junkies Ross Polly, Keri Honea, and Chris Nitz.
Posted by Blake Grundman on May 29th, 2014 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
After six long months of work behind the scenes, PDF Expert 5 developer Readdle is excited to announce that their previously iPad-exclusive application is now making the jump to iPhone. Better yet, the new iPhone version is just as powerful as it’s larger screened brethren, only at a fraction of the size. Best of all? The universal upgrade is a completely free for all existing PDF Expert 5 owners.
Aside from everything that already makes the application so great, the new update also includes a bevy of performance enhancements and new features such as the introduction of a continuous scroll mode and on-the-fly calculations for LiveCycle design forms.
PDF Expert 5 is available now as a Universal app for $9.99.
As with any good trilogy, all good things must come to an end. Sadly, this is also holds true for Zen Studios’ epic conclusion to their trifecta of pinball DLC packs. The aptly named Star Wars Pinball: Heroes Within releases for iOS on April 29, but we were lucky enough to get a hands-on look slightly before the masses. Will this be the strong finish that the game deserves, or will it end up feeling a bit more like “Revenge of the Sith,” than “Return of the Jedi?”
Leading off the pack is the most predictable in the pipeline: “Episode IV: A New Hope.” This brings a close to the trio of tables focused on honoring the original films in the franchise, and boy does it send things off in style. Fans of the “Empire Strikes Back” adaption included in the game’s base download will find the design of a central loop ramp rather familiar. That said, flanking ramp layouts make this outing appear far more symmetrical, with the exception of the additional left ramp. The main tweak to Zen’s existing formula is the ability for players to channel their inner Bambino and call their shot, so to speak, and select which ramp they would like to use for their post-launch skillshot. As per Zen’s usual mantra, the feature is nothing game changing, but it is just different enough to keep things fresh. Other highlighted elements include the return of mini-games involving a Tusken Raider or two, a slew of missions inspired by the plot of the groundbreaking film, and even a mini Death Star trench run. Considering that this film is where the magic began, it surprisingly also acts as a strong final act under these circumstances.
After dedicating a table to one specific film, it only seems appropriate to follow that up with a table focused the Droids that have incidentally appeared in every installment of the franchise. The core plot revolves around R2-D2 trying to get the Death Star plans safely into the hands of “Old Ben” Kenobi. Flanked by his trusty companion C-3PO, the duo navigate their way across the massive deserts of Tatooine. In the process, they come in contact with Jawas, sabotage and escape from a sandcrawler, and aid several other droids in need. Every aspect of this fast-paced ramp-heavy layout oozes personality and stays true to the series’ narrative – 3PO never shuts the hell up. But that is a good thing, right?
What would a last look at Star Wars be without something dedicated to the most important Jedi and Sith? The Masters of the Force table manages to do just that by bringing together the likes of Yoda, Count Dooku, Qui-Gon Jinn, Darth Sidious, Darth Maul, and several others, all in the name of reliving the biggest battles throughout the series. Oddly enough, most of the combat reenactments take a more simplistic and “old school” approach, employing what amounts to cardboard cutouts of the combatants that double as targets to either hit or avoid, instead of utilizing the resource-intensive fully rendered characters found across the other offerings in this collection. In another interesting side note, the way that the Jedi Holocron is used to capture the ball and transition between alternate modes loosely harkens back to the magnetic trunk in the classic Bally/Midway table, “Theatre of Magic.” It is hard to put a finger on why, but this decidedly more grounded table feels like something that the Zen series has been missing for quite some time and is a welcome deviation from their current design philosophies.
Bringing the collection to a close is none other than everyone’s favorite “scruffy looking nerf herder,” Han Solo. If there was ever a quip, mannerism, or action that the character was known for, most likely it will be featured on this table. Han teams up with his infallible protector Chewbacca to relive the many moments that made him an amazing anti-hero and cultural icon. Of course, the Millennium Falcon is prominently on display in the top middle of the playfield and can even be taken out for a minigame test flight, bobbing and weaving through an asteroid field. Heck, the player even has the opportunity to engage in a shootout in the Mos Eisley Cantina! Guess it is high time to find out who really shot first.
As has always been the case with Star Wars Pinball, each environment is lavishly populated with nods to the lore that will no doubt please hardcore and casual fans alike. The voice acting continues to be fantastic, once again breathing life and credibility into the Force-inspired experience. It’s a good thing that this is the last pack of DLC, because topping Heroes Within would be a tall order. No Jedi mind tricks are needed here, because each table’s midichlorian counts are off the scale.
It is a beautiful thing when bite-sized games from the console space transition to iOS successfully. A perfect example of this phenomena at work was Hello Games’ fantastic reinvention of the Joe Danger series last year. Now it seems that Zen Studios wants to get in on the action, as they’ve put the finishing touches on a port of their console and PC tower-defense/action hybrid title, Castlestorm. They were kind enough to give us an early look at the game, and much to my shock I learned that not only is it great fun, but it may actually prove to be better than its console predecessor.
Everything you loved about the original game is back again, and this time it’s being aided by an extremely intuitive touch interface. The previously arduous process of twiddling control sticks to try and line up a headshot is a nightmare that can be left in the past. Launching projectiles are now as simple as tapping on the screen where the shot should land. But sometimes a catapult just isn’t enough to fend off the enemy’s attacks on the castle. In these cases, you have the option of spawning defensive ground troops or jumping into the fray yourself in the form of super-powered hero characters. These death-dealing beasts specialize in hand-to-hand combat, with a side of magical abilities mixed in for good measure. Anyone who is familiar with the control scheme of a traditional 2D brawler will feel right at home showing these “Knights of the Square Table” the error of their ways.
Though some may sink hours into the actual combat component of Castlestorm, others may find it just as enjoyable to custom design their own fortress. The easy to grasp quasi-drafting tool makes tweaking and tinkering with the perfect blueprint just as fulfilling as topping the adversary on the field of battle.
While the previously released Castlestorm console outing clocked in at a reasonable $9.99 purchase price, the iOS iteration implements an entirely free-to-play monetization structure. Both coins and crystals can be purchased using real cash, earned through normal gameplay or awarded for logging in to play on a consistent basis. Coins are used to level-up the abilities and stats of either the hero characters or each type of projectile in your quiver. Crystals are used to unlock more substantial elements, such as entire campaigns.
What I’ve played was a very solid sneak peak of things to come. Hopefully the final product lives up to the promise of this preview. Keep an eye out in the coming weeks for our full review.