Let’s talk about … – The Room Three Will Be Here Soon

The Room series has become one of the more beloved mini-franchises in app gaming, a combination between the ultimate escape the room experience and an immersive digital narrative. The original game (The Room) was sort of an out-of-nowhere hit for developer Fireproof Games, and the follow-up (The Room Two) built on its predecessor’s success with a very similar format.

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The third game in the series has been delayed a couple times throughout 2015, but now Fireproof has announced it’s coming soon, with the design complete and only testing and approval by Apple for iOS distribution holding it back. By the sound of the announcement, a late October or early November release appears likely, though it’s difficult to say with any degree of certainty.

If The Room Three does make it out for a 2015 release, it’ll likely immediately become one of the most popular and well-reviewed mobile games of the year. This is a tad presumptuous to say, but given the success of the first two games, as well as the similarity between them, it’s a fairly safe bet to expect Fireproof to deliver once again. And for the most part, the elements that have made these games so enjoyable are actually pretty simple.

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First among these elements is pure, visual beauty. This has become a greater point of emphasis in the app gaming industry in general, as evidenced by Design Instruct’s list of the most beautiful iOS games. Most of these games are familiar titles that have at times risen to the top of the charts not necessarily because of complexity or gameplay, but because of aesthetic appeal (which isn’t to say some of them aren’t fantastic games as well). Neither of the two existing The Room games is mentioned on this list in particular, but this is the company these games are in, and in this regard at least we can already be sure that Fireproof has done it again. Earlier this year, TouchArcade published some screenshots from The Room Three, and the look is close to what players have grown used to.

Within its overall look, The Room series has also thrived by its nonstop use of basic tools and instruments of mysterious intrigue, long established in mystery and horror genres alike. Some of this even gets back to genre staples like Sherlock Holmes, known for a few little props that have since come to represent the very idea of mystery and detective-like exploration. Even a Sherlock Holmes slot machine game at Betfair taps into some of these basic props. Pipes, magnifying glasses and the like—pre-technological tools for work and recreation alike—take the place of typical slot machine icons, providing light touches that facilitate a detective atmosphere for players. The Room series has taken this same idea and run with it, its games populated with a dizzying array of Victorian era instruments. And this, too, is a very simple source of the games’ intrigue that will surely be repeated in satisfying fashion in its third version.

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Finally, the other reason that The Room Three seems destined to thrive is that it really doesn’t have much responsibility on its shoulders in terms of narrative. While these games do follow a story, that story is intentionally vague, such that at this point a satisfying conclusion isn’t exactly the main goal of the average player. The story involves following a friend deeper into mysterious locations and alternate dimensions by way of allowing his cryptic notes to guide you through the game. But by the end of The Room Two, things have gotten so crazy that players will basically accept whatever’s tossed up as an ending or resolution. Basically, that means that whatever story is in The Room Three would have a hard time disappointing.

It should become clear in the next few weeks just when this game is coming. But in the meantime, players can safely anticipate yet another wonderful game from Fireproof.

Lets’ talk about … – The Witness sets a release date with second trailer

Almost 2 years later the second trailer for “The Witness” has finally dropped. Jonathan Blow’s next game will be out on 26th January 2016 and that date can not get here soon enough.

Blow, featured in the incredible ‘Indie Game: The Move’, created “Braid”, which in many respects started the indie Game Renaissance that we are in today. If this game is anything like this last, we are in for something extremely special.

Watch the Release Date Trailer below.

Let’s take a look at … – Cross of the Dutchman

Cross of the Dutchman is based on the true story of Pier Gerlofs Donia, a legend in the medieval province of Frisna in Western Europe. When his land is threatened by invading Saxon troops, Pier takes the lead on gathering a small force to back them out of their land.

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Originally classified as an RPG, this new release from Triangle Studios has been re-labeled as action/ adventure. There are very light RPG elements- leveling up a limited number of health, stamina, and attack options and stats using gold collected in the game. Dialogue with other characters you encounter gives a basic story in between missions and combat. The mini map identifies the direction of your next objective, as well as enemy locations and direction. Gameplay is very straight forward- you attack with your fists or your sword, and each attack style has a “boosted” style that is part of your RPG decision making.

My feelings about this game are conflicted, so I will just list the pros and cons and let you decide!

PROS:

  • Gorgeous colorful graphics
  • Likeable characters
  • Artistic cut-scenes
  • Straightforward combat/easy to learn system
  • Useful mini-map
  • Low price
  • Nice soundtrack and sound effects
  • Good for achievement-hunters

CONS:

  • Very short game (estimated 4-8 hours depending on your style)- probably not much replay value
  • Attack direction is often difficult to get right- end up punching or swinging at air a lot
  • Stealth mode sections can be incredibly frustrating, especially when the save point is several minutes back
  • Some lag experienced during character dialogue and one fight
  • Little depth to the characters or story
  • Not too many areas- spend a lot of time running back and forth between already-explored areas

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I think this game has a lot of potential, but as it stands, it doesn’t contain much depth. I’d like to see the attack issue cleared up. I saw others on the forums mentioning this issue as well, so maybe this developer, who has been very kind and receptive to reviews and comments, will find a way to get that fixed. However, for the price and despite its limitations, this game is worth picking up to have some casual fighting fun.

Tl;dr –  Cross of the Dutchman is an action adventure game with light RPG elements that is worth checking out for its colorful graphics and simple play style. The game is light on story line and character development, but fans of medieval history should pick up this casual based-on-a-true-story game.

Rating – 7.5/10

Purchase – Steam £5.99/$8.99 (15% discount until September 17th £5.09/$7.64)

Trailer –

Let’s take a look at … Ori and the Blind Forest

Every so often a game comes along that pushes the boundaries of video game visuals and art direction. Ori and the Blind Forest by Moon Studios is one such game. It transports you to a world full of beauty, danger, exploration, and emotion like no other. It’s a game in its own category.

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Within the first 10 minutes I was almost in full tear factory mode. You become invested immediately, and what Ori does to the player within the opening scene is what “UP” by Pixar did in its opening scene. It grabs you so hard you are forced to continue to find out what might come next.

You play as Ori, a small nimble creature (a forest spirit) that traverses a beautiful, naturalistic, and unfamiliar world in which he finds himself thrust to learn more about his origins. The only thing to do is move forward, but it’s not without its perils. To slap the genre of MetroidVania on this title would be fairly accurate, but it’s also heavy on platforming and RPG elements such that you learn new abilities via an experience points system. They can be chosen from 3 different branches depending on what your play style is, and can be maxed out by the end of the game.

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Being a fan of Metroid style games, I was immediately at home with Ori. I would see something in the distance that I knew I couldn’t get, learn a new ability and come back to claim my prize.  Thankfully the game allows you to learn abilities that make these items show up on the map, so no guesswork is involved in finding them. It was refreshing to see a developer put the time in to letting the player have more fun and worry less about writing everything down, or trying to remember what locations they would have to return to.

In addition to the painting like scenery, the soundtrack was equally as amazing. Tranquil music would play while exploring the world, and then ramp-up during a scene of particular importance, or when the situation takes a dire turn. It raises the tension well, and then gently calms the player down, allowing them to focus on exploring. It’s beautiful, and adds to your investment in the game and its environment incredibly well.

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All in all, Ori and the Blind Forest was everything I could have wanted in a game of this genre.  With beautiful music, well thought out move sets, gorgeous visuals, RPG elements, and a world that comes together seamlessly… there isn’t much more you could ask for.  It’s truly a remarkable game and experience.

Tl:dr – Some people buy games based on story, art direction, or gameplay. Ori and the Blind Forest offers all 3, and brings them together in majestic harmony to create of the better games by an indie studio that I’ve played in years. It’s full of emotion, visual brilliance, and gameplay that shows the dedication and talent that Moon Studios put into this game. It’s a no brainer that if you like MetroidVania style games, or are just looking for a good platformer/RPG, Ori and the Blind Forest will satisfy your every need and leave you wanting more.

Rating – 9.5/10

Buy – Steam £14.99/$19.99 

Trailer –

Let’s take a look at … – The Dungeoning

My default favorite game type is RPG rogue-like platformers, so I didn’t hesitate to review Nick Donnelly’s The Dungeoning, which was released in April of last year. Despite the mixed reviews on Steam, I was determined to give this retro-style game a fair shot.

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This game is exactly what you’d expect from something of this genre- a procedural dungeon map with ghosts, bats, and other creepy crawlies, with chests and boxes to open, potions, and basic weapons to upgrade. Upgrade your character with the experience you get from kills. This is all very straightforward….and then there’s perma-death. Extremely frustrating, but that’s the reason I love these types of games.

The game tosses you in head-first. There’s very little instruction besides some pop-up tips that occasionally show up in the lower right of the screen. No real storyline. Music was nothing exciting.  Graphics are retro and simple, but I liked them immediately. Controls were not as intuitive as I’d liked (I often manage to use potions instead of wielding my sword). Of course, I died almost instantly right off the bat. The few achievements I earned in my following runs didn’t synch with Steam until about two hours of game-play in. For an achievement Nazi like me, that’s a big no-no.

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I decided quickly that I hated the game. It was boring and quirky and didn’t have much charm to it.  The controls (which I refused to even look into rebinding- I like testing the game as-is) and achievement issues bothered me. There wasn’t anything unique about this particular game that would make it more interesting than some of my other favorite rogue-likes, such as Rogue Legacy with its hilarious traits or Binding of Isaac with its black humor or Ascendant with its unique graphics and weapons.

I then realized something. I kept playing it. I couldn’t stop. Despite the lack of anything unique in this game, I found myself going back to it to try again. I still die often, but quickly made it to level nine after being stuck on level six for too many runs. I learned more about the way to react to baddies and how to upgrade intelligently, and my achievements came rolling in. Oh no, am I addicted? I think I am! Who cares about the music- I muted it and put my own on. Yeah, there isn’t anything unique about this particular game, but it does what it should- gets you hooked and makes you want to do better than your last run.

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So, I don’t hate the game. I actually LIKE it. It continues to frustrate me, but for other reasons. Level nine took it from difficult to insane- too many enemies around me to survive. It’s hard to live if you get swarmed and don’t have enough potions and items to heal yourself. I figure this is something else I’ll learn to overcome as I keep trying over and over.

Overall, I don’t think this game really deserves its mixed reviews. I give it a thumbs-up. If you just want a difficult perma-death rogue-like to play, pick this game up. Worried about it being worth it? It’s only £4.99/$6.99, or wait for it to go on sale. I’d definitely add it to your collection. You might find yourself itching to do one more run, one more run, one more run….

TL;dr – The Dungeoning is a very stereotypical RPG rogue-like platformer with perma-death, but don’t be fooled- you’ll be just as addicted as any other game with more bells and whistles.

Rating 7/10

Purchase – Steam £4.99/$6.99

Trailer –

Let’s talk about … – Nova Blitz TCG reaches its Kickstarter goal

With 60 hours left in its campaign, Nova Blitz TCG from Dragon Foundry has reached its Kickstarter goal of $40,000. It actually reached it a day or two ago! Promising innovative real-time gameplay, Nova Blitz wants to bring something new to the genre, and it looks like you guys want them to also!

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Dragon Foundry have an impressive line-up of talent on their team. Between them they’ve been making games for over 15 years and have worked on titles such as Magic: The Gathering, Guild Wars 2, and Saints Row IV. Quite the pedigree, so if anyone can bring something new to the genre I’d put my money on Dragon Foundry. Nova Blitz TCG was Greenlit on Steam after only 10 days, so there’s certainly a call for the game.

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The game has received some high praise so far, with the following comments coming from Richard Garfield, creator of Magic: The Gathering:

“I’ve been looking forward to a digital trading card game which has the depth of Magic for a long time. The real time nature of Nova Blitz keeps games moving. And the team’s knowledge of strategy games keeps it firmly in the strategy camp, and not in the twitch camp.”

Nova Blitz features real-time gameplay, which means to waiting for your opponent to act first. You can either rush out and try overwhelm your opponent, or take it slow, see what they play and counter. Intelligence and bluffing are rewarded.

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The alpha for Nova Blitz is available for download now from the official site, http://novablitz.com/game/download/, and it available for Windows, OS X and Linux.  It’s certainly worth checking out, and has some cool things planned for Steam regarding cards and trading. Check out the Kickstarter video below, and head to the Kickstart campaign if you want to help reach some awesome rewards in the stretch goals!

Let’s talk about … – Sonic gets a free app to celebrate birthday!

For those unaware, as I was, Sonic was first seen June 23rd back in 1991! To celebrate, the renowned Sonic Team have created a 2D side-scrolling infinite runner, Sonic Runners,  that will be releasing 25th June for IOS and Android. Best of all, it’s free!

The game will see Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles racing across endless worlds, collecting coins and gems whilst avoiding enemies from all directions. The environments look great, and are a throwback to the SEGA Mega Drive generation.

Sonic Runners was first released in Japan back in February, and from June 25th will be available worldwide* for both IOS and Android devices. A nice gesture from the Sonic Team to celebrate its 24th birthday!

*excluding China and Panama

Let’s talk about … – StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void closed beta is live!

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Great news for fans of the StarCraft series, invites for the StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void Closed Beta are going out today!

As well as ongoing changes to previously-announced multiplayer units, the first phase of Closed Beta will bring a new Protoss Unit, the Adept, and a few new maps:

A New Protoss Unit: The Adept

  • The Adept is a core gateway unit with a ground-only ranged attack and normal movement speed.
  • The Adept has an ability that sends out a mirror image of itself, and after a fixed duration, the unit teleports to the location of its duplicate – The duplicate can independently move around, but cannot attack or be attacked, and does not impede upon the actions of the main unit.

New Maps

  • Ruins of Seras – Seras is an ancient temple in a mountainous region of Aiur, the Protoss homeworld. It currently stands in ruins, surrounded by an encroaching jungle.
  • Lerilak Crest – Named after the Dark Templar who discovered it, this is an area on a Dark Templar world, embedded by xel’naga ruins.
  • Orbital Shipyard – Floating high above Korhal IV, this is a Terran starship repair platform.

Players with Closed Beta access will also get access to PvP multiplayer action as well as Archon Mode, a cooperative mode where 2 players come together, controlling a single army to defeat another opponent or team.

Once you receive your beta invite, simply download and install the game to begin testing Legacy of the Void. At the start of beta test, access will be granted by Blizzard directly flagging Battle.net accounts, so make sure to check in-case you miss the email! Beta keys will not be sent until later in the cycle.

The complete list of changes and features are available in the patch notes and a general Closed Beta FAQ can be found here.

Let’s take a look at … – The Spacials

The Spacials is a space colony management sim from the Carrasco brothers over at Weird and Wry; a small indie studio developed in 2014, Barcelona. It’s their debut title, and what an entrance. The Spacials is probably best described as Roller-coaster Tycoon in space, with a dynamic and randomly generated world around you. The game has been available in Early Access through their website, but today it lands on Steam as a full release. Let’s take a look.

The Spacials is set in a not too distant future where the human race is trying to establish itself out in the Universe. It’s your task to build a team of officers, explore the Universe around you, gather resources and build the most bad-ass space tourism spot you can to bring in as many visitors as possible and keep them happy.

It’s a fun and friendly implementation of a genre that has before put me off by its very nature. It’s not bogged down in numbers, meticulous details or terrifyingly complex interfaces, it’s all action and is presented in a succinct manner. This is further enforced through the aesthetics which are very light and cartoony, it’s a very nice style and compliments the gameplay and overall casual feel of the game well. Same goes for the soundtrack throughout. Its light ambiance feels perfectly at home in the game.

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The core of The Spacials is to gain resources and use them to build and maintain the best space tourism spot you can. Resources come in many shapes and sizes and are collected by completing missions on planets in the systems that you have unlocked, bounties and contracts. Once you complete a mission on a planet you unlock its resources and supply lines. The missions come in a variety of difficulties, so if you’re finding things a bit easy you can crank up the difficulty for a greater challenge.

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Combat when on these missions is rather unique, and is where the bulk of the action comes from. All combat is squad based. When you are selecting a mission, you will chose the officers that will comprise your squad. There are 5 classes of officer in the game, Strategist, Scientist, Diplomat, Engineer and Doctor, each with their own roles. For each mission there’s a slot available for 1 officer from each class, 5 total. So you pick your quad of 5 and start the mission, teleporting you to the planet in the process.

From this point on you’re on your mission on a randomly generated planet. The goals of the missions, at least all the missions I’ve played, are simple and along the lines of ‘Find X’, ‘Destroy X’ and don’t take too long to complete. You click the ground to move, your whole squad moves as one unit, and when you find an enemy you spam click the hell out of it; there’s no auto-fire. At first this bugged me, but after playing the game for a while I came too really like the combat.

Each officer has a special skill that gets mapped to the hot-keys 1-5. Having these different types of abilities really offers some verity to combat and your squad. Each of these abilities, and your officers’ weapons and passive abilities, can be changed and upgraded, so you can kit your squad out however you like and create some crazy combos for weapons and abilities.

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Once you have your resources you can return to you base, tend to your officers’ needs and work on your space tourism base. The goal is to get as many visitors as possible, and to keep them as happy as you can. The visitor screen will give a breakdown of all visitors currently at your base, and how happy they are. You use this to expand your base to accommodate the needs of your visitors. As you attract more visitors you need to provide a wider variety of accommodation and attractions, so you will have to pay a visit to the tech tree; the upgrade system of The Spacials.

Throughout your exploits on other planets, you will earn research points. These are spent at the technology tree on unlocking new build types, and there’s lots to choose from. There’s no rules on how you create and customize your base, so it’s really just down to your imagination.

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Once you have your resources, and whatever you want to build unlocked in the tech tree, then it’s time to start designing your tourism base. The building controls are easy and nice to use, although I think the UI surrounding it could do with some more polish. In fact, the UI and polish everywhere I think are a few patches short of being where they could be.

There is a nice tutorial that covers lots of the introduction to the game, but I think in general the UI and self-intuitiveness of it could be improved. Example. It took me ages to work out how to remove someone from an Embassy pots. (You can put your officers into the Embassy of a system to gain more resources from it). To remove someone from an embassy position, you have to assign an empty slot the position. I realise you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work that out, but a remove button would have just been that much easier.

And that’s the focus of my criticism. There’s a whole bunch of tweaks that could be made to make it that much easier and just add a touch more polish. Things like tool-tips when you’re hovering over buttons, some of the UI overlaps in places when you do certain things, you can’t move items once placed, and the inventory system is somewhat cumbersome when it comes to kitting out your officers. Only small things, but given the genre, and especially the fact that this is a casual implementation of the genre, I think self-intuitiveness and UI design should be as perfect as can be and for me there’s still a bit of room for improvement.

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What I love most about The Spacials is that it makes the genre accessible. I’ve seen plenty of space sims before this, but they’ve always seemed like too much hard work! The Spacials captures the essence of a good sim without letting it get in the way of itself. Yes, I think there’s some issues with the UI and general self-intuitiveness of the interface in places and some of the actions, but these are minor. I think The Spacials is a great casual entry into the genre, and an awesome debut title from Weird and Wry.

Icing on the cake, it’s only £8.99; a nice cheap price for the amount of content and hours you will get out of the game. There’s also a launch sale, where the game will be 25% off until April 7th. Will you be playing The Spacials? We hope so. If you do, let us know what you thought of it in the comments.

Tl;dr – The Spacials is a fun and friendly implementation of a genre that has before put me off by its very nature. It’s not bogged down in numbers, meticulous details or terrifyingly complex interfaces, it’s all action and is presented in a succinct manner.  I very much enjoyed it. For those accustomed to their space sims this will be a nice casual experience, and for those like me that are new to it it’s a great entry point.

Rating – 7/10
Purchase – Steam £8.99 (excluding 25% launch sale until April 7th)

Let’s take a look at … – Glorkian Warrior: The Trials of Glork

Glorkian Warrior:The Trials of Glork is a vertical shooter/platformer* hybrid from the team over at Pixel Jam. Originally Kickstarted back in 2010, a rough journey, details of which you can read here, saw the game take 4 years to arrive on IOS. Now, ~1 year later, the game has arrived on Steam. Let’s a take a look.

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Glorkian Warrior is an undeniably charming game. The art was created by Eisner-award-winning cartoonist James Kochalka and gives the game a very warm and friendly feel. It takes you back to those cartoons you’d watch as a child (or as an adult in my case :D), making everything feel incredibly familiar; it’s playful and innocent.

Then we have the soundtrack and sound effects which are a vintage synth/techno blend that compliments the graphics amazingly. The underlying music of the game is sort of synthy and upbeat which enhances the charm of the overall aesthetic. Then we have the games sound effects which are very classic-arcade sounding which brings those memories and associations back to the cartoony world. It creates a really nice familiarity, like your favourite cartoon character has jumped into an old space invaders game.

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You play as The Glorkian Warrior, a recruit of the Glorkian Academy, and it is your job to protect your asteroid from the invading alien forces from above. To do this you fire (autofire) bullets from your trusty talking backpack and move around the level to hit the enemies above in typical vertical shooter style.

At the beginning of the article I put an asterisk after platformer. The game is described as a vertical shooter/platformer hybrid, but I didn’t find any major platforming mechanics! The extent of the platforming, from what I can gather, is the ability to jump. I’ve looked at screenshots online, and the trailer, and haven’t seen any real platforming there either. If this comes later in the game I’ll recant my statement, but if that’s the case it needs to come much earlier.

As you fight off the invaders they will drop power-ups that make your backpack more powerful. Drops such as double laser, triple laser and fireballs give your weapon some variety. These power-ups also stack so you can end up with some really unique combinations that are really fun to play with. The enemies also come in quite a few shapes and sizes, each having different looking attacks, but which ultimately function quite similarly.

After a certain number of waves a boss will appear who has some mechanics not seen in standard enemies and a short boss battle ensues. You repeat these waves and boss fights until you inevitably become overwhelmed, at which point you recount on your spoils of war, unlock any items you may have unlocked and see if your rank in the Gloria Academy has increased. The whole cycle then begins anew.

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I don’t really have anything bad to say about Glorkian Warrior. It is a perfectly pleasant and charming implementation of a well-loved genre. My problem with it is that it feels like it’s in shoes it can’t fill on PC. It feels too small, and the casual gameplay feels it would suite a mobile device better. Something you can pick up, spend 10 minutes in, and then put it down. I did a first impressions of this game (at which point I didn’t know it was available for IOS first) and my conclusion was that it was perfectly suited to IOS. When I’d finished recording I did some more research on the game found indeed that it is originally an IOS game and I feel that’s where it belongs.

Glorkian Warrior is a good game, and I’ll most likely play it in the future. On my iPad. If you’re into your vertical shooters, or enjoyed the game on IOS, then you’ll most likely enjoy the PC version. Especially since it costs only £2.79! There’s nothing wrong with the PC version, it just feels a touch out of place for me.

Rating – 7/10
Closing Summary – Glorkian Warrior is a pleasant and charming vertical shooter, but one which I ultimately feel belongs on a mobile device.
Purchase – Steam, £2.79 (or your regional equivalent)