Foursaken Media barely misses a beat on Bug Heroes 2. It takes 2011’s hit tower defense/dual-stick shooter/real-time strategy hybrid and pumps out a cool, fun, great-looking, and fast-paced sequel that ups the ante on just about everything (but sadly marginalizes the story of feuding bugs). Strategic nuances mix brilliantly here with arcade-style action, and the mission, skirmish, and endless modes alike all offer plenty of variety in the flow of play — though not in terms of scenery, as only three maps are included.
Abe Lincoln looks pretty mean with a chainsaw. He’s one of 12 historical figures called in via cloning to save the world (and an underground hobo kingdom) from hordes of monsters, zombies, evil dudes, and man-eating cheeseburgers in Rocket City Studios’ dual-stick hack-and-slash game, Second Chance Heroes. It’s just about as crazy as it sounds, and the wacky premise is backed by solid gameplay. Lincoln is joined by a who’s who lineup of historical clones, including Leonardo da Vinci, Napoleon Bonaparte, Joan of Arc, and Queen Elizabeth I (who carries a gatling gun).
John Woo’s reputation as a director and filmmaker was built on graceful action set-pieces and high-stakes melodrama. Unfortunately, his first foray into mobile gaming — Chillingo’s thuddingly titled Bloodstroke — has neither. You play as a private security contractor, codenamed Lotus, whose task is to escort a brilliant, nervous doctor through a series of levels stretching from Hong Kong to Beijing — all while dispatching the roving bands of gangsters, hitmen, and thugs trying to kill him.
Song Blaster is an arcade-style shooter that loosely incorporates your personal music library into gameplay. The concept has been done before by games like Beat Hazard and Audiosurf, but rarely has it been this playful. You won’t find in-depth strategy or demanding tests of reflex with the free-to-play Song Blaster, but what you do get is a fun, stimulating way to virtually interact with your favorite tracks.
The first thing you'll notice when starting up Lawless is the insane level of detail applied to the arcade-style shooter’s characters and environments. It’s seriously one of the best-looking mobile games this side of Infinity Blade III. But much like how an intriguing-looking book might be devoid of anything interesting to say, a game’s contents may not match its memorable sheen — and that's definitely the case here. The intense firefights and crew-based combat of Lawless quickly lose their shine, and it ultimately proves to be just another tepid free-to-play grind.
Strike Force Heroes: Extraction is a noble – if uneven – attempt to replicate the classic side-scrolling console shooter. Likely due to the complexity of its control scheme, the genre hasn’t often been particularly well served on iOS devices, but Strike Force Heroes (HD iPad version reviewed; also available separately on iPhone) has found a few clever shortcuts. The result is fun to play in short bursts, even if the smoothness of some controls makes some of the weaker spots more glaring.
Depending on your perspective, free-to-play games might either be the best or worst thing to happen to the mobile platform – but whatever your take, it's hard to deny that the approach comes with notable compromises. Dead Trigger 2 is a fairly engrossing first-person shooter with a lot to offer in regards to comfortable controls and enjoyable blood-spattered gameplay, but you'll quickly find yourself sitting around doing nothing in order to avoid throwing money into the works.
With a laser pistol in one hand and a glowing sword in the other, charging through long corridors filled with killer robots, oozing slime creatures, and alien freaks sounds like a good time. It is — at least to an extent — in Echo Prime. This sci-fi brawler from Robot Entertainment (Hero Academy) is a high-energy tap-fest that balances smart controls and formidable challenge. The satisfaction that comes from cleaving through droves of foes in a successful run dampens during longer play sessions, however, due to intense repetition that'll leave your wrists aching.
Hunting never felt so base and inhumane as in Deer Hunter 2014, the latest in a long line of titles that has evolved progressively far from its moniker and expanded now to include endangered animals. The core shooting and weapon upgrading experience is actually very well executed, albeit easy – assuming you can look past the ethical blunder is blasting near-extinct creatures – while its rapid-fire mission structure across three exotic locales makes for some compulsive gaming. However, there’s little by way of deer or realistic hunting on offer.
Tell us if you've heard this one before. In Dead Effect, you assume the role of an elite soldier aboard a spaceship, where an infection has turned everyone into zombies. Odds are, this setup is not unlike one you've seen numerous times before, and unfortunately it's not just the story that proves so familiar. The weapons, setting, music, and enemies are all equally uninspired, and the gunplay is too weak to compensate. As a result, Dead Effect is a thoroughly run-of-the-mill first-person shooter.