Review: Harbinger Wars: Battle for Las Vegas, by Storm City Games and Valiant Entertainment
Harbinger Wars: Battle for Las Vegas, by Storm City Games and Valiant Entertainment (universal binary)
$0.00 (free), ****
- Great retro feel in design and sound
- Engaging play
- Well-designed storyline (see below)
- Controls on iPhone leave something to be desired
- Scoreboard, and ads distracts from gameplay
- No “easter eggs” from comic book company
Harbinger Wars: Battle for Las Vegas is a classic style game, designed to get the player thinking with a sense of nostalgia about the Nintendo games of old. It is based on the comic book series “Bloodshot” and “Harbinger” from Valiant Entertainment (full disclosure, I read the comics), and is a tie in to their recent release of “8-bit covers” to their monthly comics.
The heroes of Harbinger Wars
The concept on Harbinger Wars is simple – you are Bloodshot, a super-powered solider who has no memory of his real life. He is powered through nanites in his bloodstream, impacting his sense, memory, healing ability, and combat ability. You are there to fight the bad guys – including the enemies from “Project Rising Spirit” that are responsible for your current condition. I have been playing for a few days and only gotten past the first couple of levels, so I have only been playing as Bloodshot, but I believe there is another character you can play at higher levels. You shoot your way through enemy lines, picking up coins and health along the way. The comic book story goes into much more detail (which I won’t go into here, but if interested feel free to PM me for more details. If there is enough interest, maybe I can have a contest for a free comic or two!), but the old style 8-bit games were always pretty straightforward.
You are Bloodshot, a forgotten soldier infused with super powers.
The game play is simple – you have an on-screen direction pad for movement, a button to shoot, and a button to jump. One of the most engaging features is the 8-bit sound track that adds ambience while you play the game (a sound track I had to keep muted, unfortunately, when I was playing at work!). It is also entertaining – travelling around, looking for bad guys to kill, so you can get an access pass to the next level. The levels themselves are pretty complex, with lots of different areas to explore. I wish there was some sort of enemy counter, so that I could know how many I have killed (or how many I still need to find) before I can move on to the next level. There were a couple of glitches I encountered (one time I fell into an area with no way out) and there are some odd game play features (like dying immediately if your head hits a moving platform), but the game play itself was fun and charming, just like you would expect in a retro-style game.
Simple game play on the iPad, although controls on the iPhone felt a little cramped
One of my biggest gripes with the game, however, are the controls on the iPhone. On the iPad it was great, but on the iPhone the controls were cramped, and I routinely was hitting the wrong button, or thought I was hitting a button but was actually not doing anything (Shoot! Shoot! Why won’t the character shoot his gun!!). I don’t know if the actual region of sensitivity is very small, but it got very frustrating to play for an extended period of time. On the iPad, the control buttons were fine – it looks like the game is simply an enlarged version for the iPad, so even though it is a universal binary there is no difference in the game play. For my choice, I preferred the iPad.
Large ads and score board get in the way on the iPhone
The screen on the iPhone (and to a lesser degree, on the iPad) is directly related to my second complaint. Coins that are collected can be used to purchase items, including “remove ads”. If you don’t have that, there is a big banner ad in the game. The problem is that on the small screen, the ad space blocks a significant portion of the screen, making it almost impossible to see things that might be above your head. This is also true of the scoreboard, which is in the upper right portion of the screen – blocking a significant portion of that region. On the iPad, this is less of an issue, but on the iPhone it made it difficult at time to figure out where I was going, if someone was shooting me, and other facets of gameplay. It is nice that you can remove the ads by collecting coins in the game (as opposed to requiring money) but you do need to play a long time to get enough coins to do so.
Less clutter on the iPad screen
All in all, this is a fun, retro style “run and gun” game related to a comic book concept. I wish there were some embedded easter eggs (screen shots from the comic books, for example), but the game fulfills its promise as a throwback to the 1980’s. As I was playing, I felt like I was playing an old NES or Atari 7800. While there are some glitches and drawbacks (controls and the ads blocking the screen), as a free game designed to induce a sense of nostalgia, Harbinger Wars really hits its mark (and the tie-in to the comics books is great as well!). Four out of five stars.
* = No redeeming qualities or features, probably not worth it even if it is free
** = Few redeeming qualities, or is simply isn't worth the price
*** = Some good features but also some clear flaws.
**** = A solid app, worth the money if interested, a few flaws or problems or slightly overpriced
***** = Top of the line app, no problems or drawbacks.
Price is factored into the ratings. Ratings are lowered if I feel the price of the app outweighs the benefits/enjoyment/features it provides. Likewise, an app that is a good value for the money will have a higher rating. Please comment on these reviews. All opinions expressed in this review are precisely that – opinions. You may agree or disagree. If you own the app, tell me what your opinion is. If the review prompted you to buy (or not buy) the app, let me know why. If you want more information about the app, go ahead and ask.