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Unreviewable - Vendir: Plague of Lies

Posted by Campbell Bird on February 28th, 2023
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

I have a lot of mixed feelings with my time with Vendir: Plague of Lies. It's an experience that in some moments are incredible in their ambition and execution and in others is sloggy and irritating. Most of the highest points of the game I've encountered without having to engage with the game's free-to-play monetization model, but I have also run up against its pinch points that push players to pay and they feel horrible.

With all of that in mind, it feels kind of impossible to assign a score to it. It is goodbad and badgood. You should play it but also not. Or maybe watch someone play it. Or maybe just play the dialog quests in the starting area and quit as soon as you have to fight something. I don't really know. I am still intrigued to keep playing it but every time I do I almost always end up quitting out of frustration once I encounter a random battle with enemies that would seem defeatable if I fed the game a considerable amount of money that I don't think it deserves.

Netflix vs. Apple Arcade: How do they Compare?

Posted by Campbell Bird on July 20th, 2022

It's no secret that Apple Arcade hasn't exactly lived up to its potential. The initial promise of Apple providing a subscription service for less engagement-focused, high quality titles was only partially realized at its launch, and since then has been officially tossed aside in favor of pursuing the exact opposite.

As Arcade has been languishing, some other subscription services have been trying to establish their own foothold on the App Store, and perhaps the most attention-grabbing of these services has been Netflix. With any level of Netflix's streaming tiers, users also gain access to a mobile game library that so far includes breakout surprise hit Poinpy and modern classic Into the Breach.

Between Netflix's recent moves in securing hot titles for its service and Apple announcing recently that certain titles on Arcade are disappearing, I figured it was high time to compare the services directly as a handy way for you to decide which--if any--mobile game subscription service might be worth subscribing to.

I am struggling to get invested in Diablo Immortal

Posted by Campbell Bird on June 7th, 2022
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: WOW IT’S DIABLO :: Read Review »

Diablo Immortal came out last week, and I've gone ahead and committed to playing a bunch of it to put out a review after going in-depth on such a meaty release. While I still plan to do exactly that, I've hit a bit of an unexpected snag along the way. From the outside working my way in, I was fully expecting for its lavish production values and loot lust to draw me closer and closer toward a seductive paywall. To my surprise, that hasn't happened, and even more surprising are the reasons why.

I've put quite a few hours into Diablo Immortal's story and other side quests so far and haven't really felt a hint of need explore any of its monetized aspects. In theory, this is good news, as everyone's speculation heading into the game's release would be that it would be some horribly monetized bastardization of Diablo (which it is obviously not). In practice, though, I'm having a hard time mustering much enthusiasm or curiousity about just about anything Diablo Immortal has to offer, regardless of quality.

Genshin Impact - Everyone is right to complain to the developers of this hit mobile game

Posted by Campbell Bird on September 29th, 2021
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: GIGA GACHA :: Read Review »

Genshin Impact is a phenomenal game. I gave it a glowing review, wrote extensive early guides on it, and it snagged this site's game of the year award for 2020. Since I first started playing a year ago, I don't think I've gone a single day without logging in and enjoying myself, and I've been able to do so without paying any money whatsoever.

As of this writing, though, the community as a whole is not satisfied with the game. Much of this has come to a head around the game's anniversary. It is common for gacha games like Genshin Impact to celebrate anniversaries and other milestones by giving out rewards to players or holding special events. The only problem is Genshin Impact isn't doing that. Aside from a few community contests and other, largely promotional, marketing events, miHoYo basically hasn't said they are doing anything to commemorate the 1st anniversary of what is far and away the most successful (read: profitable) game they've ever released.

The best mobile tower defense game is buried inside Genshin Impact

Posted by Campbell Bird on August 13th, 2021

Back in February of 2021, Genshin Impact added an event called Theater Mechanicus as part of its big Lantern Rite festivities. This mode was a sort of tower defense game that challenged players to build death traps of elemental towers against waves and waves of Hilichurls, Ruin Guards, Abyss Mages, and other common Genshin Impact foes.

The major twist with the event was that your character's power completely didn't matter. Whether you were a whale with a full bench of maxed out, S-tier, five-star adventurers or a free player with nothing of the sort, Theater Mechanics was an accessible, challenging, and super-satisfying event to take on in single-player or co-op. The only bummer about the whole thing was that Theater Mechanicus was a time-limited event and it disappeared after just a couple of weeks.

Infinity Island is a remarkably unassuming idle game

Posted by Campbell Bird on August 4th, 2021
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

I've been playing Luca Redwood's latest release, Infinity Island, for almost a week now, and I'm a little perplexed. The mind behind innovative, premium titles like 10000000 and Photographs put out an idle game fueled by ads and in-app purchases that is remarkable mostly by how pedestrian it is.

In it, you collect little pets on a cartoonish desert island by launching a hook out to sea to retrieve boxes of loot. These pets produce currency automatically that you can use to purchase various upgrades, almost all of which serve to help you produce currency faster. At various points throughout the game, you can also opt to watch ads to double your rewards or make in app purchases to accelerate your progress. If you ever reach a state where progression seems to plateau, the game offers to reset (or "Infinity") your island and allow you to spend some other currency to accelerate your progression rate on the new island.

There's never been a better time to hop in to Genshin Impact

Posted by Campbell Bird on July 22nd, 2021
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: GIGA GACHA :: Read Review »

We were obviously big fans of Genshin Impact when it launched last year, so much so that it grabbed our Game of the Year award. Since that time, though, the game (and our enthusiasm fo it) had gone somewhat quiet.

You see, Genshin Impact is a service game, but since last winter there had been precious little added to the experience. Post-Dragonspine, a couple of story quests showed up and a trickle of new characters came and went, but there was nothing really new and exciting for players to latch onto--regardless of whether they played daily or dropped off months ago. This summer showed a glimpse of excitement with a temporary archipelago being added to the game, but the whole experience felt like stopgap effort designed to prevent more of the player base moving on to something else.

Genshin Impact - Six months in the free-to-play wonderland of Teyvat

Posted by Campbell Bird on March 29th, 2021
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: GIGA GACHA :: Read Review »

Six months ago this week, Genshin Impact released on multiple platforms, promising a vast open world of adventure and element-based combat. The only catch was that all of this action would be monetized via virtual slot machines known colloquially as "gacha."

Gacha games have their advantages in that they have a low barrier to entry, allowing players to hop into an experience without having to spend any money. The dark side of this design is that all of the most desirable game items and characters are locked inside a storefront that uses myriad psychological tricks to convince you that spending money for more chances to use this slot machine is a good idea (it's not).

Apple Arcade is in trouble

Posted by Campbell Bird on July 1st, 2020

Yesterday, Bloomberg reported that Apple is disappointed in the performance of Apple Arcade and will be shifting their approach to the service by focusing on games that can retain subscribers and canceling other upcoming releases that don't fit this new vision.

Honestly, the only surprising thing about this news in my mind is the timing. Apple Arcade hasn't even been live for a year, and half of its existence has been admist a global pandemic, mass unemployment, and burgeoning civil unrest. If Apple was confident about its approach to its new games service, I would've thought they'd give it a little more time and leeway before shifting their approach.

I have been enjoying Apple Arcade and have been a loyal subscriber since it launched back in September. I've even given each game on the service a fair shake. But there's no denying that the service hasn't lived up to its promises.

Golf on Mars "review"

Posted by Campbell Bird on June 23rd, 2020
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad


Golf on Mars is a minimalist golf game and the follow up to Desert Golfing. In it, you traverse a seemingly unending Martian landscape by hitting a golf ball from hole to hole using the tried-and-true pull-and-release touch control scheme popularized by Angry Birds. But there are no birds here, much less any that explode. Nor are there powerups, enemies, menus, or even levels. It's just you, the ball, the holes, and the seemingly endless Martian landscape for you to navigate. Oh, and there's a counter at the top that's tracking your total stroke count, too.

KartRider Rush+ might be good, actually?

Posted by Campbell Bird on May 15th, 2020
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: DREAMY DRIFTING :: Read Review »

It's hard to find good racing games on mobile. Most of them are free-to-play, and free-to-play racers generally suck. Even Nintendo couldn't put together a competent Mario Kart game, opting instead for a weird score chaser that resembles--but feels nothing like--actual Mario Kart.

So, when Nexon released KartRider Rush+ earlier this week, I had low expectations, but I decided to boot it up and try it out anyway. I played a few races, and then I played some more. Then I joined a racing club, found myself friending people, and racing even more. Before I knew it, my week was consumed with playing KartRider Rush+ because--somehow--it has managed to create a free-to-play racing experience that actually feels good.

PSA: Go Play Two Spies Right Now

Posted by Campbell Bird on April 24th, 2020
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Just before 2020 hit, a pretty cool multiplayer game hit the App Store. Two Spies is a one-on-one competitive game where you try to outwit and outmaneuver your opponent as you bounce all over Europe, capture cities for intel, and wait for the perfect opportunity to strike your enemy down.

I was really impressed with Two Spies and the way it offered up relatively uncomplicated gameplay that could feel really deep and tense due to the way information hiding works. At any given time, you can't know everything your opponent is doing, so you have to rely on your own ability to read your opponent while being careful not to make your own actions too predictable.

Hearthstone's latest update is a bit of a snoozefest

Posted by Campbell Bird on January 27th, 2020
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarstar :: PERFECTLY (WAR)CRAFTED :: Read Review »

Back in May last year, I wrote about how Hearthstone felt like it was trying to reach more casual players with the release of The Dalaran Heist—a single-player expansion that focused less on theorycrafting the perfect deck and more on experimentation and play. A lot has happened in the game since then, including the release of a new game mode that seeks to capitalize on the popularity of auto chess games like Dota Underlords.

I wouldn’t say any of these updates have made Hearthstone any friendlier or more accessible as The Dalaran Heist did, but they have given players different ways to engage with the game’s cards in new and neat ways. Keeping all of this in mind, I was pretty excited to hear that another single-player expansion was coming to Hearthstone. But—now that it’s finally here—Hearthstone’s latest update, entitled Galakrond’s Awakening, feels like a return to basics for Blizzard in a way that feels a bit disappointing.

Two Spies is pretty fun, but it's hard to play with other people

Posted by Campbell Bird on December 12th, 2019
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Two Spies just dropped on the App Store this week, and it looks pretty neat. The game has two players capturing various cities across Europe, with the goal of eventually spotting and striking the other spy down. It may be simple-looking, but after playing the tutorial and a few bot matches, there’s a hidden depth here that makes it seem like something I’d want to play regularly on my phone.

Fighting with colonialism in Queen's Wish: The Conqueror

Posted by Campbell Bird on December 5th, 2019
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Sometimes it’s hard to stick with a game, even if you enjoy playing it. Perhaps it’s just too stressful, perhaps it disturbs you, or—as is the case with Queen’s Wish: The Conqueror—you might not be down with its narrative conceit.

Queen’s Wish: The Conquerer is an open-world role-playing game from Spiderweb Software that’s been five years in the making. As soon as you boot it up, you can tell the love and craftmanship poured into the game, particularly via the game’s writing and attention-to-detail. My only problem with it is it’s asking me something I don’t really want to do: reclaim a colony as part of the queen’s empire.