The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Tag Archives: app store

Race the Sun: iOS Game Review and Reflection

“Who dares, wins” —David Stirling

Not to be confused with the 1996 movie, Race the Sun is a procedurally-generated endless-runner game where the player controls a solar-powered craft. The objective is simple enough: to maneuver around an eternal landscape of abstract obstacles and stay in the daylight for as long as possible as the sun is setting. As players make progress, unlocks that confer performance and cosmetic customisations become available, allowing players to fine-tune their craft to fit their play-style. To increase survivability and scoring, different power-ups can be collected as one is flying through a region: beyond the scoring multipliers, some give a speed boost, jumps and even a shield that saves a player from head-on collisions. The presence of power-ups, slightly more forgiving collision mechanics and the added challenge of having to outmaneuver the sun means that Race the Sun definitely has enough additions to make it stand out from the classic Flash game Cubefield, which similarly featured a craft being flown through an endless field of cubes. In comparison to the simplistic Cubefield, Race the Sun is remarkably entertaining and compels players to return, unlocking all twenty-five levels and vie for scoring supremacy in a world deadly, monochromatic obstacles.

  • I was inspired to pick up Race the Sun after watching a Rage Quit video of it, and the page quote is directly inspired by said video. In my first few hours, I was not used to the controls on iOS: touching the screen is what’s needed to turn the craft, and one must touch the bottom to utilise a jump power-up (on PC, the controls are arrow keys and spacebar, which are more intuitive), but I’m more comfortable with the game now.

  • After completing all of the objectives and reaching level 25, the name of the game is simply to last as long as possible using the vehicle configuration of one’s choice. While the “recommended” setup is magnet (for increased item pickup range), jumps (to store more jumps) and improved turning to decrease turn radius, the ship can be configured differently to simplify the completion of some objectives.

  • Having all three slots available for power-ups makes Race the Sun somewhat easier than it was as seen in Rage Quit. Contrasting games like Cubefield, where collisions immediately result in death, Race the Sun is a little more lenient: only direct collisions cause death, while glancing collisions merely detract from one’s multiplier.

  • The void is one of my favourite aspects of Race the Sun, being a space-like environment filled with multiplier-increasing pick-ups. It’s definitely more enjoyable than Cubefield owing to all of the different nuances.

  • I read one review that cleverly stated Race the Sun to act as a metaphor for life itself. Paraphrased, it suggests that the spacecraft represent people as they pursue their dreams, which are fleeting and must be chased. Like how the space craft slows down in the absence of light, shadows of out own doubt slow us down, and numerous obstacles in the environment, some being obvious and others coming out of nowhere can stop one’s pursuit. Said review goes on to encourage users to get back up and keep trying, just like in real life. It’s not often I read reviews that are insightful, but there are exceptions. With the pair of iOS game reviews now done as promised, I’ll see if I can do a talk on Alto’s Adventure in the near future.

I picked up Race the Sun for iOS and have spent around six hours in-game. There are no tilt controls: touching the left and right sections of the screen allow one to steer their craft, and tapping the bottom of the screen when a jump is picked up will activate the jump. The simple controls work well enough for their part, but in my first few hours of gameplay, I had minor difficulties in making sharp enough turns to dodge close-up obstacles. However, once the steering mechanics were mastered, it was quite fun to complete the objectives and level up (ranging from simple ones that involve collecting a certain number of points or using a power-up a fixed number of times, to insanely difficult ones that require players make only left turns through three regions in a single run, or perform twenty barrel-rolls in one life). Over time, I reached Race the Sun‘s level cap, and the game at level twenty five even more enjoyable than it was while completing the objectives. Frustrations encountered earlier, such as the magnet’s range, numbers of jumps stored or turn radius disappear, allowing players to focus solely on getting the high score. Different game modes are also unlocked, with the diabolical Apocalypse mode and top-view maze runner, providing a different style of play for those looking for something a little different. Its near-infinite replay value, coupled with a refreshing, minimalistic appearance and simple mechanics means that Race the Sun is an excellent iOS game, well worth the 5.79 CAD.

Leo’s Fortune: iOS Game Review and Reflection

“The love of family and the admiration of friends is much more important than wealth and privilege.” —Charles Kuralt

Leo’s Fortune is one of the better-known games on the App Store for its beautifully crafted world, wonderful voice acting and relaxing soundtrack. Following Leo, a fluffy roly-poly, on his quest to reclaim his lost treasure in the form of gold coins, Leo’s Fortune is a stunning platformer that has a surprisingly heart-warming plot that is unveiled as Leo makes his way through a plethora of worlds. Speaking in a thick Eastern European accent, Leo himself is a highly sympathetic character whose inner thoughts are visible to the player. Entangled in the mystery of who the thief was, players are compelled to follow Leo’s Fortune to the end to figure out the culprit’s identity. From a mechanical perspective, Leo’s Fortune promotes clever gameplay, making use of the in-game physics to solve puzzles and advance to the next region. The star system also encourages players to go back and complete missions with a single life, obtain all the coins and finish levels under a time limit: these stars unlock bonus missions in a region, and together, Leo’s Fortune handles exceptionally smoothly, allowing players to immerse themselves in a fantastical world where not everything is what it seems.

  • Conceptually, Leo’s Fortune is a simple game, but its immersive factor comes from the polish in the level design, artwork and voice acting. The first region is set in a gentle, lush forest, but later regions feature a variety of more lethal-looking environments.

  • A unique feature in Leo’s Adventure is the movement system. While players can intuitively move Leo around using the left thumb, Leo doesn’t actually jump or crouch. Instead, moving the right thumb up causes Leo to inflate and gain buoyancy, making it possible for him to float over wide precipices, and moving the thumb down causes Leo to drop, which is great for dropping quickly. A combination of both will be required to beat the puzzles scattered in the game.

  • The soundtrack in Leo’s Fortune has a medieval, children’s feel to it, reminiscent of the music seen in fairy tales and fables. It’s well-suited for the game, as are the visuals. While the landscapes are highly detailed, they do not obscure gameplay in any way.

  • Players have unlimited lives with which to push through the different levels, although players must beat levels under a time limit, without losing a specified number of lives, while collecting all the coins, to unlock all of the bonus features available in the game.

  • I understand that this last screenshot and the page quote might spoil the plot, but there’s not enough context for that to occur. According to the site’s archives, it’s been quite some time since I’ve done an iOS game review for a title that did not have the phrase “Deer Hunter” in it (Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy is the aforementioned review).

It was during the coldest depths of Winter 2015 when I picked up Leo’s Fortune during an iTunes sale, and I absolutely loved the experience. Beyond intriguing worlds to explore and solve puzzles in, each world (or set of levels) have their own surprises, such as wind storms, underwater segments and puzzles that demand precision from the player. Thus, when players reach the end and learn of the true culprit, it feels like a rewarding, well-deserved ending to the game. I myself was surprised at the turn of events, and the lessons learnt here are remarkably relevant in contemporary society, forcing players to question what it is they truly value in their lives. Things like fortunes and wealth can be amassed, but one must wonder if these things are the key to fulfilment. Consequently, it’s easy for me to recommend Leo’s Fortune for the experience, and for individuals lacking an iOS device, Leo’s Fortune (as of September 8, 2015) was also released for Mac and PC, being available on the Steam Store as an HD remake.

Vito Technology Presents Solar Walk and Sky Walk

Vito Technology entered the market of mobile application development in 2001, but its latest applications have made it one of the best known organisations out there for developing iOS apps. Their two flagship apps, Star Walk and Solar Walk, are amongst some of the best apps that exist for the iOS platform. Star Walk is an interactive star map that can track the position of over 20000 objects in the night sky, while Solar Walk is a replica of the region within the solar system. Both apps are spectacular in visuals and functionality; I purchased them a year ago as apps to showcase the iPad 2’s graphics, but the apps have found use in locating objects for star gazing sessions.

Sky Walk

  • While not depicted here, the coolest feature in Sky Walk is augmented reality, the ability to project the stars onto the sky using the iPad’s camera. The system is calibrated using the position of a well-known object, and the app carries out the rest of the calculations.

  • Navigation and usage of the app could not be easier. Users swipe to move around, pinch to zoom and tap to select objects. Menu items allow users to customise the app settings, alter the time of the view and search for common objects.

  • Sky Walk costs 4.99 CAD in the app store, a cost that is considerably more economic than the 40 or so CAD the astronomy guides cost. Then again, the iPad itself makes it expensive.

  • What’s cooler than being able to look at the sky at various positions and times of day? How about the ability to look up things that one may or may not be familiar with?

Solar Walk

  • Remember 100000 stars? That neat web-app could not run on Safari or iOS devices natively. Now imagine a version for iOS that does something similar for objects in the solar system that is just as visually stunning and easy to use.

  • As per Sky Walk, Solar Walk uses a similar UI and navigation schema, making it easy to use one app if one is familiar with another. This cross-program consistency makes Vito Technology’s software usable- such a paradigm means that users familiar with one product from a company will be able to pick up another product with minimal trouble. From the end-user perspective, this makes it easy to get something done. From the developer’s end, it will mean repeat business.

  • Tapping the screen once hides the HUD, allowing the iOS device to be used as a cool photo frame. The graphics are spectacular: years ago, stuff like this was merely fiction, but radical advances in processor technology have made some once-fictional technology, like high-resolution multitouch UIs, a reality.

  • Solar Walk costs 2.99 CAD in the app store, two dollars less than Star Walk. A recent update has allowed for the app to be streamed to an HD display, further extending the app’s usefulness in showing off the coolest parts of the solar system.

Stargazing and astronomy are two pursuits I’ve had since my first pair of binoculars fourteen years ago: when I first started, things like iPads and electronic sky maps were still constrained to research institutes and science fiction. Instead, I have a small collection of astronomer Terence Dickinson’s stargazing books, which provide maps of the sky and guides for amateur astronomy. I am a binocular stargazer and have witnessed a handful of cosmic events, such as lunar eclipses, auroras, meteor showers, planetary conjunctions and the like with nothing more than the naked eye, and have found many well-known astronomical features with a simple pair of binoculars, reflecting on the fact that the hobby itself can be as simple as keeping an eye and ear open for events and looking at the sky. Of course, the shiny apps we have now augment the experience; if I were to ever bring the iPad into the field, the Sky Walk app has a nifty feature to preserve our night vision.

Victory in discount iOS apps

A month ago, Epic Games released “Infinity Blade II: Vault of Tears,” a free content update for its Game of the Year Award-winning iOS blockbuster, “Infinity Blade II.”As a promotional offer, the full version of “Infinity Blade II” was purchasable for a limited-time promotional price of $2.99 via the iTunes App Store. At around the same time, EA released an update for Real Racing 2 HD 2, making it suited for the iPad 3’s retina display and as part of a promotion, also reduced the price of Real Racing 2 HD to $1.99. These offers were nigh-impossible to pass up, so I purchased both games and ended up saving nine dollars altogether; presently, both games cost $6.99 apiece.

  • I might post a full review of Infinity Blade II later. Infinity Blade was one of the games that I had initially considered purchasing, but eventually decided to wait and see whether or not my interest would wane for the game. However, when I heard about the discount for Infinity Blade II, I decided that the purchase would be immediately worthwhile.

  • I’m not too sure how Infinity Blade II differs from its predecessor in gameplay: all I know is that there’s a new story, new graphics and new items. The combat system takes full advantage of the iPad’s touch screen and allows players to precisely control their parries, dodges and sword strokes, contrasting melee games on traditional systems, which depend on a preset sequence of moves.

  • The graphics on the iPad 2 rival the PlayStation 2 and even the Xbox in terms of quality. Real Racing 2 HD was another game that I had my eye on since last summer. Back then, the price was $9.99.

  • I consider Real Racing 2 HD to be the Gran Turismo for iOS. Infinity Blade II is compatible with both iPad and iPhone/iPod touch, while Real Racing 2 HD is iPad-only; a smaller version exists for the iPhone/iPod Touch platforms. However, given that the discount essentially lowered the cost of the HD version, I’d go with the iPad version every time.

Both Infinity Blade II and Real Racing 2 HD were used to showcase the iPad 2’s then superior video processing capabilities. It is hardly a surprise that they are some of the most popular and well-received apps for the iPad. Beautiful and boasting intuitive-yet-engaging gameplay, they extend the iPad’s capabilities well beyond the academic machine I’ve previously hailed the iPad to be.