Queue and Sea Strike
Island Labs ( www.islandlabs.com ) is a fairly new developer with two interesting new game titles, Queue, a puzzle game, and Sea Strike, an arcade game.
Queue is an interesting puzzle game that juggles simplicity with challenging game play. The game screen is mounted at an isometric point of view (top-down at a vertical angle) and consists of a grid. (There’s even a 3D time limit indicator that “shrinks” as you run out of seconds). At each side of the grid are little turrets which launch different-shaped game pieces onto the grid (each side of the grid has a different-shaped piece). For example, a piece launched from the turrets on the left may need to be pushed upward by launching a piece or two from the bottom turrets and then to the left by launching more pieces from the right turret. At each level, you’ll need to cover the highlighted areas of the grid with the proper shape.
It’s harder than it looks, and you’ll have to get the pieces where they need to go without disturbing the ones that are already in place. Higher levels up the stakes with obstacles, bulldozers, and power-ups. It’s a satisfying game thanks to clever, eye-catching graphics and a custom interface. The game features a healthy 100 levels, and since any given level has a variety of successful approaches, all but the most hardcore puzzleheads will find a lot of entertainment value here. Island Labs just released what it calls the “Flatiron Levels,” an add-on which features 100 new levels. All in all, one of the better puzzle games I’ve seen. A-
Queue supports all Pocket PCs. A demo is available, and the full version can be purchased for $14.95. The Flatiron Levels add-on can be purchased for $4.95.
I’m betting you’ve probably already looked at the screenshot and are thinking, “SubHunt, right?” Well, you’re mostly right--this game is actually SubHunt in reverse--this time you’re the sub.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a game like this on the Pocket PC. A year ago, a game called Battle Marine was released with a similar concept. It wasn’t a bad game, but it was a little tedious and didn’t get much more difficult as you progressed through the levels.
Sea Strike seems to have corrected these problems, and you’ll have your hands busy from the beginning. Your little sub fires both horizontally and vertically, which is a good thing, since you have a lot to contend with: Aside from the ships which launch generous amounts of depth charges against you, you’ll also have to contend with other subs. And your oxygen supply is limited, so you’ll have to collect oxygen from bubbles to avoid running out. Game play is fast, furious, and generally enjoyable.
The game also has nice visuals, with some nice use of shading and color and decent backgrounds. In many ways, it’s similar to some of the coin-op games of the early 80s--you’re so busy trying to stay alive that before you know it, the game’s over and it’s time to insert more quarters. Still, it’s a better bet than the more tedious Battle Marine, and it’s fun to look at to boot. A-
Overall, these two titles are quality efforts and are worth taking a look at if you’re want something that’s enjoyable if not groundbreaking. One word of warning, though--the value of the demo for each game is a little questionable. The demo of each game is basically the full version with a limited number of plays unless you enter a serial number. Each new game you start after loading the program counts as a “play” (Most demos that use this method just count the number of times you’ve loaded the game.) Depending on how adept you are, you can exhaust your number of plays in a couple of minutes. Island Labs should really consider a different approach to give gamers a more thorough feel of how the game plays before they decide to take the plunge (limiting the game to the first couple levels or so would work well here, I think.)
Sea Strike supports Casio Pocket PCs and all ARM and XScale-based Pocket PCs. A demo is available, and the full version can be purchased for $14.95.
Allen Gall is a freelance game reviewer and the games editor for CEWindows.NET. If you have a game you'd like Allen to review, you can e-mail him at [email protected]