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Zadzooks: Star Wars Cantina, Lamp of Aladdin and Medieval HD

Strategy, crossbow in Medieval battles

- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 16, 2010

Reviews of some games for Apple's iPad:

Medieval HD (Brisk Mobile, $2.99)  Superb landscapes, engaging sound effects and crisp animations make this upgrade to a classic iPhone tower-defense game very worthy of Mac's magical tablet.

A player wields a massive crossbow atop a tower and must guard his castle and flag by fending off seemingly unending waves of attacks from an opposing kingdom's forces.

To win each level, he must destroy the enemy's castle, steal its flag or hold out against the assault by using his finger to pull back the bow and shoot at hostile targets.

An accumulating stream of gold acquired for taking out forces helps, as the hero can buy a selection of new weapons (such as flaming arrows and boulders), resources (such as cavalry and catapults) and upgrades (such as a speedy regeneration or a volley of arrows).

Strategy remains paramount the deeper a player goes into the campaign. Will a field of archers be enough to stop suicide bombers? Will rocks effectively shoot down bomb-carrying dirigibles? Will a line of catapults efficiently pummel the opposition's castle walls to end a skirmish quickly?

A trio of shooting modes, each offering a different level of gold bonuses — Automatic Fire, Show Arc (a line is revealed for the projected path of a projectile) and Drag Fire (use your best physics-based instincts) — will appeal to gamers of all levels.

Lamp of Aladdin (Chillingo, $4.99)  A fairy tale comes to life via a pair of familiar puzzles in this illustrated adventure. Through a mixture of "I Spy"-like hidden-object conundrums and Bejeweled-style multilevel epics, the player works through a map of Arabia to help Aladdin find the magic tree of life and marry the princess.

The match-three boards are especially exhausting and easily border on tedious as the player keeps tapping and rearranging gems to move Aladdin along a path. What's amazing is that I could find no penalty for just tapping constantly until a match was made. For those still stymied and unable to get the hero moving, the genie pops in occasionally to help by breaking a gem and opening a route.

Little animations such as seeing the hero traverse the game board, using a flying carpet to move to the next area or watching him wield a sword to cut through dense greenery to get to the next board help with the tedium.

The hidden-object challenges are much more rewarding but too infrequent. A player must not only find all of an object's pieces in a cluttered, slightly animated picture, but also often use completed objects to interact within the space. For example, a player might locate the parts of a key and then use it to unlock a seahorse.

The game won't win awards for the voice acting, but the character illustrations are of a children's storybook quality.

Most important, as a family-friendly time waster, it will keep a younger player's brain focused and peepers sharpened through the 15 missions. Unfortunately, older casual gamers will be unenthused by the repetition.

Star Wars Cantina (THQ Wireless, $4.99)  What better place to tackle a restaurant time-management challenge than in one of Tatooine's wretched hives of scum and villainy.

In control of cocktail superwaitress Nia Adea, a player has 15 days to make cash and help the owner of the Thirsty Bantha, good buddy Robb the Besalisk, pay back loan shark Varak'Cha.

Nia swiftly moves with a drag and tap of the finger over the iPad to clean and seat tables, pick up and serve multicolored drinks, pick up payments and try to make enough money to survive to the next day.

Cute character designs of the Saturday-cartoon variety mix with computer-painted illustrations to move the story forward. I just wanted to pinch the cheeks on those Twilek bounty hunters.

Of course, levels get progressively harder and require collecting more cash and managing more tables. Upgrades such as air conditioning and holochess tables help calm patrons, including Jawas, moisture farmers, Gamorrean thugs and one of the Hutts, while the player juggles his tasks.

I could have used a bit more responsiveness from the software under times of stress, as my sweaty finger demanded Nia's rapid motions to keep customers happy before they left in a huff or busted up the joint. (Thank goodness for repair droids.)

Also, the Cantina theme blasting through every menu screen might induce madness in the average human. The tween "Star Wars" fan, however, will appreciate the familiar friends and fast-paced action.

Send e-mail to jszadkowskiwashingtontimes.com.

 

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