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Judge Dredd: Countdown Sector 106 Review

New Judge Dredd iOS game book from Tin Man Games

I have never been a particular fan of the famous 2000ad comic, in spite of it being a central fixture in the life of most British boys and indeed nerds. But I can’t say the same for its central character, Judge Dredd. I’ve devoured the stand-alone trade paperbacks of his exploits many times over, and played the related board games many more. So you can imagine my delight when I heard Tin Man Games were bringing a Dredd gamebook to iOS, and the further delight when they offered me a copy to review.

Countdown Sector 106 posts you in the boots of the famous lawman himself, drafted in to help out with routine patrols in a sector that’s suffering a shortage of personnel. I have to say that I think the set-up is a bad choice. For starters casting the player as Dredd himself immediately sets the bar very high indeed in terms of writing and story. And Judge Dredd is famous for busting psychotic cursed earth gangs and extra-dimensional psychic entities, not doing routine patrols. Of course we all know Dredd has to do grunt work some of the time, but building an interactive adventure around his everyday experiences? Not such a great idea. You get to feel like you’re a judge in Mega-City, but at no point do you get the sense that you’re the epic man Dredd himself.

The issue is compounded by the writing style. Author Nick Robinson claims himself as a big 2000ad fan and it shows: his tale skillfully weaves in all sorts of mega-city tropes from colloquial language to the likely contents of department stores. Unfortunately he seems to think this familiarity is a substitute for strong characterisation and pacy, colourful writing. Too often the narrative lies flat and lifeless on the page, and it fails utterly as regards the political and darkly humorous overtones for which the comic strip is rightly famous.

However, Mr. Robinson has done a bang-up job when it comes to plotting a course through the numbered paragraphs of the book. The options you’re presented with are often numerous and always help to bring home the dilemmas that Dredd’s everyday activities would present him with as regards juggling the collection of evidence with the need to apprehend perps and a healthy dose of self-preservation. The good choices are subtly hinted at but rarely obvious and the overarching plot does a great job of tying together a disparate bunch of flavourful events into a coherent whole, allowing you to experience many of the delights of Mega-City without feeling like you’re being railroaded.

One issue I have had with all the Gamebook Adventures series is the combat system which is clumsy, overly protracted and prone to wild swings of fate. Countdown Sector 106 uses the same system for hand-to-hand fights but introduces a new shootout mechanic for gunfights. It’s based on a single dice roll and so is much faster and cleaner. It’s also frequently used to present the player with tough risk management choices: they can attempt a difficult gunfire role to take down all the antagonists but risk leaving them all alive, or try a lower value roll to to take down one or two and leave the rest for melee combat. The system works really well, and I hope to see it replicated in future titles.

Another thing all the Gamebook Adventues that I’ve seen appear to have is a good achievements list. This isn’t something I’d normally find worth mentioning, but with gamebooks on mobile devices I’ve found it to be a big incentive to really explore the title, tick all the boxes and thereby get maximum value from the book. The usual suspects are here, including a worthy nod to an icon of British geek culture, and you can also collect the artwork you’ve found in the book, all of which is of the high quality you’d expect from a famous comic strip character. But there’s another neat addition specifically for this book: the perp record sheet. This not only tracks which criminals from the book you’ve successfully hunted down, but gives you a portrait and a short biography for each one that you’ve caught and sent to the cubes. For a budding judge, it’s hard to imagine a better motivation for replaying the book.

Countdown Sector 106 doesn’t endear itself with its bland paragraphs and flabby writing, but once you’re stuck in it more than redeems itself with pacy moments, background colour, a thrilling plot and challenging decisions aplenty. It’s a great way to whet your appetite for the upcoming Dredd feature film, and a welcome return to gaming for one of Britain’s finest exports.

Judge Dredd Gamebook Hits iOS

New Judge Dredd iOS game book from Tin Man Games

Tin Man Games, having published the most successful series of gamebook apps on iOS so far and fresh from winning the licensce to release actual Fighting Fantasy books, continue their run of form with a brand new Judge Dredd book to whet our appetites for all things Mega-City in advance of the new film later this summer.

Casting you in the boots of the legendary lawman himself, Countdown Sector 106 features additions to the well-worn gamebook adventures mechanics to mimic the sorts of fast-paced firefights you’d expect.

Written by a long-time 2000a.d. fan this looks to tick all the boxes for a quality experience. But there’s a full review in the pipeline, so I can let you know for sure once I’ve had the chance to play through it.

Cracked LCD- Summoner Wars IOS in Review: The Promised Land

Summoner Wars iOS intro screen from Playdek

Effectively, this is the third time I’ve reviewed Colby Dauch’s Summoner Wars. The first time was back in 2009, when the original release of four factions split into two boxes was edged out of the Game of the Year prize by Chaos in the Old World. The second time was when the Master Set, which included six all new factions, came out last year. In between those releases were tons of great add-on decks that I didn’t formally review, but all come with my highest recommendation. The third review is for the new IOS app from Ascension-meisters Playdek, which was finally released after what seemed like an endless wait yesterday.

So before you wonder “should I try Summoner Wars on the iPhone or iPad”, you should know that I absolutely adore this game in its physical form and I think it is one of the best board games in the past decade. It’s a dead simple game but the various factions and unit types, coupled with variable setup and optional deck construction options, make this a near-perfect mix of easy rules and compelling depth. And it’s a design unafraid of the all-or-nothing die roll or of favoring momentum over turn-to-turn balance.

TL;DR version. Each player has a deck of cards. These cards are units and events. You play units by discarding cards out of your accrued magic pile (kills and willful discards), and these go next to wall cards on a grid. Each turn, you move three units and attack with three units- melee or ranged. Roll dice. Three through six is a hit. Some units roll more than others. The goal? Kill the other player’s Summoner, a high-powered boss unit. Do you smell something like a little Magic: The Gathering, Chess, a Japanese SRPG, and a tactical miniatures game stewed in a pot? I sure do. And it smells good.

Mr. Dauch’s design is brilliant, modular, and succinct. His experience working with Heroscape at Hasbro shows, and the result is a highly playable, no-fat/no-filler design full of action and compelling decisions.With Playdek doing the honors, I’m pleased to report that Summoner Wars is more than just a great IOS port of a board game. It’s the new standard by which all future IOS board games should be judged. By bringing forward the lessons learned from Ascension (not to mention Food Fight and Nightfall), Playdek has delivered the best IOS board game to date, and as a fan of the game I’m very happy to see that it’s going out to potentially millions of people with its best face forward, despite a couple of release hiccups in some areas and some minorly glitchy code that will certainly be patched away.

The interface is dead on perfect, but those minor glitches seem to include a little sluggishness in clicking and dragging cards. Regardless, it’s easy to play and parse, and even on the iPhone screen it’s easy to keep track of what’s going on and what you can or can’t do. New players will have no trouble at all easing into the game through the tutorial and veterans will appreciate the card gallery and full rulebook.

The asynchrous, Game Center-based multiplayer that Playdek more or less perfected the first time out is back, but they’ve actually improved it, particularly in terms of stat tracking. You can now see your wins and losses against specific opponents, which is a feature I especially like. You can go forth with a default deck or customize it right before you accept a match. And it’s easy to keep several games going at once, ensuring that this game will likely enjoy the same kind of online life that Ascension still has.

It’s a free download, but only if you want to play the Phoenix Elves against the AI. It’s not a terrible opponent and it does put up a fight to mid-level players such as myself, but really this game is meant for the async multiplayer. I noticed that matches are listed as 1vs1, which has me wondering if the intent is to eventually include the multiplayer variants. In order to play online at all, you do have to buy at least one deck from one of the other factions for 99 cents. Or, you can do the smart thing and buy everything currently available for $7.99. I’m really surprised that some of the expanded races are available day one, like the Jungle Elves and the Cloaks. There’s even a full brace of optional Mercenary units, including some that were promo-only cards. Buy the full package and you’ll not want for variety, that’s for sure.

I’m really kind of blown away by how well Summoner Wars turned out. It’s the perfect kind of game for a touchscreen interface, it’s at the right complexity level, and it’s extremely polished and professionally made floor ceiling. No sloppy Arial fonts or crude visuals of any kind. This is top notch stuff, and if you have any interest in using your iPad or iPhone as a gaming device then it’s a must-download title if ever there were one, unless you just don’t do the board games thing at all. But even then, this game has the potential for broad appeal because it’s accessible, immediate, and totally addictive.

I’ve been playing it almost non-stop since NHS’ very own Brandon Cackowski-Schnell sent out a message to us that it was available. I was at Ikea with my family, and I downloaded it right there and snuck off to the bathroom to check it out. When we got home last night after fireworks, that’s all I did until about 4am. Game requests were coming in fast and furious, and I played several AI matches with all the different decks. And here I am today, getting those pop-up alerts that it’s my turn in five or six games at a time. As with Ascension, I have a feeling that I’m going to be playing this game around the clock for quite some time. I am willing to bet after only a day with it that it will be my most played game- of any type- of 2012.

So, No High Scores High Score Award? You bet your sweet ass.

Inferno+ Torches the Apple App Store

YouTube video

If you have an iPad or iPhone and dig Radiangames (and why wouldn’t you?), you will want to check out the newly released Inferno+, aptly described as a cross between Geometry Wars and Gauntlet.

Additionally, Super Crossfire and Super Crossfire HD have been updated with a new survival mode, while Fireball SE, Ballistic SE, and Gobs of Fun have all received minor changes that you can view on the respective iTunes pages.

Imperium Galactica II Released to App Store

Well, how about that. Here I was expecting the usual cavalcade of fake retro 8-Bit bullshit, cutesy-poo single-mechanic physics games, and freemium scams to turn up on the App Store this week and out pops Imperium Galactica II. This is a real-time 4x space game that was released on PC in 1999 by Digital Reality, the Hungarian geniuses behind Sine Mora. I was too busy being in a terrible relationship to check it out when it was new and $50. Now I’m happily married and I can pick it up for the budget price of $3.99. I just downloaded it and took a look around, I have no idea what’s going on but the interface is bad ass and the graphics look pretty good if a little muddy. There is no retina support, and it’s iPad only.

You know, I despise many of the current trends in the video games business. But putting the great PC games of the 1990s onto the iPad is something I can definitely get behind. Now let’s see Age of Wonders, Imperialism II, Star Control 2, Planescape: Torment, Total Annihilation, Dungeon Keeper 2…