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App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
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The iOS world has seen its fair share of word game hybrids that encompass virtually every conceivable combination out there. And yet, new ones are still popping up. New ones like Word Derby that partner spelling with what can best be described as “those weird racing games at carnivals where people spray water at tiny targets to make their rider on a stick go faster.” It’s as unlikely a pairing as I could imagine, and yet it works exceedingly well.
The ultimate goal of Word Derby is to just have fun competing with other players. Sure there are some riders (many with special abilities) that can be unlocked but the real focus in simply on playing. Experience is earned and levels are gained with each turn taken that provide players with special profile badges to show off, but they’re just for show. The race is the thing here. Once a match is set up (between 2 and 4 players) and a bet placed (players bet tickets; the game’s all important currency), both players are given a small set of jumbled letters and are tasked with spelling something. The first letter is locked in, however, and all players’ turns are submitted simultaneously, which not only complicates things but penalizes the submission of two of the same word with zero points. It can happen, believe me.
Word Derby’s presentation is pretty neat in that it’s like an adorable cartoon carnival game. The characters are weird and cute at the same time, and everything just seems “friendly.” Playing it is also a lot of fun, which surprises me a little since I was a bit wary of the simultaneous turns thing. But it adds an element of excitement to each round. “Did the other person find the same word I did? Did they find a better one? Are they using a power-up to boost their chances?” As does the bonus points meter that gets more and more empty the longer a turn takes to complete. But those power-ups, wow. What’s clever about their implementation is that none of them are game winners, they can only be used once per game, and players have to pay for each use with their own tickets. So no spamming and no decided advantage for players with a larger bankroll.
It’s unfortunate that Word Derby can only be played with an online connection (i.e. no subway play), but that’s sort of how it goes with multiplayer-only games. And while the inclusion of a pass-and-play option is nice, it’s fairly pointless when the game needs an online connection to simply start up. Still, once a game (or several) is going it can be plenty of fun. Especially earning the ticket pot after coming in first.
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 4S
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When a corrupt wrestler starts taking more than his share, it's up to a band of four rag-tag luchadors to bring him to justice. It's easy to see why come players might think Street Wrestler is just a wrestling game, but while wrestling is a big part of the game, it shares more in common with the classic arcade beat 'em up games of decades past. This meshing of the flare and spectacle of wrestling with the humble side scrolling action game is both fun and satisfying; and while players will still have to deal with a virtual joystick, this title does some intelligent things to make its controls work harder than players might expect.
Street Wrestler is certainly an apt name for this game. Players take control of one of four masked wrestlers and take to the streets handing out smack-downs in the form of punches, kicks, and body slams. Each wrestler has his or her own unique moves, though they are all activated by the same button combinations. The wrestlers also handle in different ways. Some are large, strong, and slow while others are more lithe and quick on their feet. Players can take each wrestler through all the game's levels, beating up everything in their path.
This game controls like many of its kind. On the left-hand side of the screen there is a virtual joystick used to move the character around the environment. On the right-hand side there are three buttons, for jumping, punching, and contextual actions. The contextual button is where this game really sets itself apart from other side scrolling beat 'em ups. The actions that this button executes change depending on where the player is or what is next to them. Sometimes it might grab and throw an enemy, other times it will grab and throw a barrel, and other times it might send the wrestler arcing in a aerial attack. This clever little button allowed the developers to include lots of unique actions in the game without cluttering the screen with tons of buttons.
The environments in Street Wrestler are simply gorgeous. The cell shaded art style, the detailed design, and the dynamically animated backgrounds all make this game one serious piece of stylish eye candy. The controls aren't flawless, but they work well enough that the player can focus on fighting bad guys instead the controls. Street Wrestler does a great job at capturing the essence of what makes a side scrolling beat 'em up game so fun, and it delivers it in a bright, insanely decked out, and easy to enjoy package.