Tag Archives: Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Ripoff

REVIEW: Bubble Booster

Whatever name you ascribe it, working to align bubbles of a similar color and shooting them down is a pretty timeless recipe of the puzzle shooter genre. It was a guaranteed staple of the earliest game consoles (see Puzzle Bobble and the like), and it’s a damn near regular appearance on mobile devices of all kinds these days. Bubble Booster ($1.00) is yet another example of that tried-and-true formula.

Here, the setup retains the classic conundrum of bubble busting; orbs of various colors spread across the stage, some in noticeable, ‘easy to shoot’ patterns, others less so, and in harder to reach areas. You can control your shots and / or fine-tune your aim, sending your own orbs ricocheting off walls or stacking them aside for later use. You complete any given level by clearing out all of the bubbles on that stage, one way or another.

This gives the game its simple hook on the surface, with some strategy and mindfulness needed to actually increase your scores to a boastful level. While you can always just match the color (three or more) in a line of some sort to remove bubbles from the playing field, you gain more points for ‘dropping’ other bubbles in play around where your shot hits. In this regard, it makes more sense to ‘pick and choose’ your moves, placing your shots where they’ll do the most damage and clear out more of the board.

It’s a clever trick, one that’s made all the more tricky with the added complication of having a limited amount of time to take your shots, as well as the level ‘ceiling’ pushing the stack of bubbles closer to game over every few moves you make. To motivate you to do better, the game offers online leaderboards, tracking everything from practice scores to fastest level completions, overall high scores, and highest level reached. You can also earn new bubble skins (like individual country flags) and wallpaper backgrounds.

Bubble Booster - Screen

It’s all superficial stuff, mind you, but it’s a decent amount of unlockables to earn. With all that said, though, Bubble Booster is an also-ran, with plenty of better examples in the genre released well before it, or for free1, for that matter. There’s literally dozens of this game type out there, and that has to hurt its bottom line.

So while it’s far from original or unique in its execution, Bubble Booster is a fun enough puzzler to waste a few hours on. What worked ‘then’ still works ‘now’, albeit in smaller doses. The online leaderboards further extend that lifetime if you’re the competitive type, just be aware that there isn’t anything here that you haven’t already played in years (possibly decades!2) past.


  1. It’s arguably easier to aim and play these games with a mouse, too. Controllers are nice, but they’re not always the best option for all game styles and genres. 
  2. If so, congrats! You’re old (like me)! 
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REVIEW: Croc’s World 2

Despite some crisp, cheery visuals and a lovable croc mascot with a football helmet, I didn’t like the original Croc’s World. Most of that had to do with the fact that it was almost a straight Mario clone, with no interesting bits or unique mechanics to define itself as anything other. Now Sprakelsoft has unleashed Croc’s World 2 ($1.00) upon the unsuspecting mobile and XBLIG masses, and… nothing much has changed for the sequel. It’s still an unapologetic Mario clone.

Croc's World 2 - Screen

In a valiant attempt to cover for that, Croc’s World 2 has effectively ‘doubled-down’ on the content for this follow-up. While the original had a pair of world themes covering 30 stages, the sequel has four(!) unique stage themes, spread across 60(!) levels. It’s that classic sequel trick, using the fuzzy math of ‘more = better’. Tempting to consider, but the platforming remains as nonchalant and formulaic as ever.

Croc’s moveset is simple enough to master; he runs, he jumps, he collects diamonds in batches of a hundred in order to gain a 1-up. His ‘football helmet’ powerup mirrors Mario‘s ‘mushroom’, allowing you to bash bricks above your head and take one extra hit from enemies before dying. You can collect a second item, a bag of rocks (see Mario‘s ‘fire flower’) to toss stones at aerial foes or attack ground opponents from a safer distance. In a new twist, you can pick up an additional bag to turn your stones into ‘homing’ rocks, seeking out targets and simplifying the combat even more.

That over-simplification is a natural byproduct of being a port of a mobile game (just as the original was), yet the ease at which you can complete stages once again throws out any semblance of challenge for someone over the age of five. I consistently ran through most scenes at top speed, navigating the basic obstacles (think spikes, disappearing bricks, or fire hazards1) and taking down end-level bosses without a care. With plentiful checkpoints and unlimited continues considered, there’s really no way anyone can lose.

Croc's World 2 - Screen2

Once again, the only real challenge to be found is to figure out the bizarre reasoning behind your stomp attacks, and what can hurt you; bees and crabs are fair game to be bopped, while porcupines are strictly on the do-not-touch list. Even the boss fights, while appreciated, fall into the familiar rut of ‘platforming 101’— stomp them, wait for them to exit their ‘stunned’ animation, then repeat.

Inspiration in any creative design can be a very good thing— when it’s used as a model to advance your own ideas. Croc’s World 2 borrows too much from Croc’s World, which in turn borrows way too much from Super Mario Bros. Thus, there’s no reason to invest in this artificially-inflated sequel, unless you like generic platformers. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; why play a dumbed-down knockoff when you can just play the stellar original game it’s based on?


  1. Another new powerup makes you invulnerable to fire at certain points, which, you guessed it— makes things even easier

REVIEW: Ascension – Climb The Tower

Minus my many colorful phrases and the formation of all-new curse words in response to its difficulty, I liked Towerfall Ascension. I missed out on it when it hit the OUYA1 originally, so the PS4 stood in as the perfect surrogate mother, allowing myself and others another opportunity to play a really great, really challenging game.

Not just an open avenue for boob games and quick, hastily-thrown-together zombie shooters, XBLIG also functions as a ‘surrogate’ of sorts, giving indie developers the chance to capitalize on the absence of a popular title on Xbox by ‘borrowing’ said title’s gameplay, style, etc. A Clone, A Homage, Inspired By, whatever you want to call it, these games can sometimes effectively mimic the original, giving players a look at a game they might otherwise miss, at a tidy, reduced price. Ascension – Climb The Tower ($1.00) is one such instance, providing a stripped-down version of Towerfall.

Ascension - Screen

The setup is immediately familiar in Ascension‘s ‘Horde’ setting, which tasks the player with surviving endless waves of enemies on a large, static screen. You’re given a limited amount of health to start2, a barely-adequate melee weapon, and set loose to scrounge for projectile weapons (think axes, bolts of lightning) and other items in randomly-appearing treasure chests. Everything feels right here, from the easy exits on the top, bottom, and sides of the level, to the almost-brutal way that enemies can gang up on you3, all the way to the ‘damage sponge’ bosses and the helpful ability to pluck your already-thrown weapons off walls and ceilings to reuse them.

Though the initial stage assortment isn’t exactly stellar or too varied, the game does offer you a level editor to design your own. Most might not be thrilled at the prospect, but you may have some incentive to tool around with it; much like Towerfall, the four-player local multiplayer is clearly this game’s strength and the most likely to suck up your free hours (assuming you have local friends, that is).

Ascension - Screen2

And Ascension plays its role well. The art is sharp and the controls are adequate, with one glaring exception; the avatars in Ascension slide to a stop on any surface, making it harder to line up jumps (or double-jumps off walls, natch) and accurately predict your movements— as well as your enemies’ path. It’s less noticeable in a frantic battle, but especially evident in the game’s aggravating ‘Ascension’ mode, where you continually climb a vertically-scrolling tower filled with blind jumps and other hazards, with only a single hitpoint between you and death. Needless to say, you may have to spend some time (and lives) adjusting to this imprecise motion.

While it’s throwaway, that added mode and the other (better) game variations are a nice disguise to mask the rather light overall content. Ascension – Climb The Tower does feel like Towerfall at certain moments, though, making you forget about its other shortcomings (a bargain price certainly helps). More importantly, it provides an ‘entry level’ introduction to a game that some players might have otherwise passed on. Absolutely play the original if you can, but if that’s not an option, this game makes for a worthy stand-in.


  1. The system is still rusting away on my shelf, having only been played one time. Probably the main reason why I’ve taken a break from backing Kickstarter projects. 
  2. You can tweak various game settings in the options screen in order to make your life easier / harder. 
  3. Just as in Towerfall, a single ‘Slime’ can fuck you over real good. 

REVIEW: Super MechaMan

Your natural inclination is to read Super MechaMan ($1.00) like ‘Mega Man’, thus assuming you’re getting yourself into some kind of very colorful and kiddish Mega Man-inspired platformer. That wouldn’t be wrong of you to assume, either, especially when some of the screenshots show off a character in a blue, mechanized suit, firing off blaster shots at snails1. Yet, you’d be wrong.

Super MechaMan - Screen

Broken down into its ‘no bullshit’ purest form, Super MechaMan is nothing more than Mario with a Mech suit. Furthermore, once you have that Mech suit (via a powerup doled out like mushrooms), you really need to do almost nothing else to win the game. But that comes later. The game starts off with a kidnaping kidnapping, as most of these things usually do. Bad guy takes your chick for no apparent reason, you take offense to it, and storm off after him, an army of foot soldiers and themed worlds between you and the inevitable climactic fight. Surprise, Super MechaMan takes no risks with the formula.

Gameplay is similarly lifted from its inspiration; you move from left to right to reach the exit, can stomp enemies on their head, and you bop bricks to acquire coins (a hundred earns you an extra live, natch). Super MechaMan comprises a total of ten levels, split between four world ‘types’, including a luscious greenscape (so nice we gotta use it twice!), a moonlit ice level, etc, each with their own enemy re-skins and soundtrack. The music is actually quite good, which counteracts the otherwise basic platforming and combat ‘rinse and repeat’ stuff.

Super MechaMan - Screen2

A simple boss fight concludes each world, but none of them will tax your skills. Particularly if you have the Mech suit. Sans suit, one touch kills you, but getting hit while in the suit merely demotes you back to human form. Which kind of stinks, actually, considering you’re basically a God when in Mech form. The ‘arm cannon’ makes all enemy / boss encounters a breeze. Sure, it takes more shots to maim a critter than the old ‘jump on the head’ routine, but it saves you from having to get up close and personal, eliminating any and all challenge the game might have presented.

You’re not missing much anyway, unless you enjoy really generic platformers2 you can complete in a half hour. Like Croc’s World before it, the whole thing seems ready-made for phones, the ‘copy and paste’ stuff that chokes off originality and just clogs up the marketplace out of spite. The colorful worlds are nice, but the lack of difficulty makes Super MechaMan ‘a curious glance’ at best, with ‘a skippable bore’ being the more likely outcome.


  1. Which, for the record, seems a little ridiculous. Snails? Really? I’m not telling anybody how to make their game, but ‘snails’ are not what I think of when I hear ‘threatening foot soldier’. What’s the worst they could do? Chase me really slowly, leaving a slimy trail behind? Oh, great, a mess I have to clean up? I’m shaking in my little Mech suit. 
  2. You shouldn’t. Please say you don’t. 

REVIEW: Croc’s World

While it seems that every week and / or month of the year is the official sponsor of some cause or issue we need to be more aware of and contribute our money to, I’m assuming the stretch of time between late April to our current spot in May has to be called ‘Release a generic platformer that borrows its entire existence from Super Mario Bros.’ Yeah, that’s a little long, probably won’t fit on a calendar or Hallmark card, but how else do you explain the trickle of similarly-designed XBLIGs leaking onto the marketplace?

Croc's World - Screen

Sprakelsoft‘s Croc’s World ($1.00) is the newest homage to the plumber, a console port of a decent-looking mobile title by the same name. But outside of the obvious upgrade of using a physical controller over a sketchy virtual pad, it’s Mario and pedestrian platforming all the way through— including the same-y sound effects— to the extent that they should’ve just added a ‘Super’ at the front of the title and dropped the charade.

Graphically, the game alternates between an outdoors level with plenty of greenery, and the standard cavern setting. Over the course of thirty stages, the Croc will run & jump, collect a hundred gems to earn an extra life, stomp the heads of his foes, and bash bricks— albeit with the help of a football helmet, because safety first, kids.

For an additional powerup, you get a bag or rocks to throw at your enemies… …I’m not sure why. You’d think he would use his jaws, or whack them with his tail, but I digress. Both the ‘helmet’ and ‘stones’ upgrades also act as health, allowing you to absorb up to two extra hits before dying. Though with generous checkpoints and unlimited continues, there’s not much of a penalty for failure.

Croc's World - Screen2

Admittedly, the croc does look adorable with that helmet on.

In fact, the only mystery these types of platformers contain is trying to determine which of your enemies can be stomped on, and which ones have to be avoided. In Croc’s World, bees and crabs pose no threat to our reptilian hero (maybe it’s his tougher, scaly skin?), while slow-moving porcupines and even-slower swinging spike balls are your archrivals. Waiting for these enemies / hazards to complete their patrol cycle generates more yawns than challenge anyway.

You can reach the end of Croc’s World in about an hour with minimal effort. As a distraction for younger kids, it may run longer and hold some interest. But if you know better, have a decent background in videogames (you know what ‘NES’ stands for) and harbor even a below average talent for platformers, there’s simply no reason to play this. You’ve seen it all before. Move along.