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Mobile Musings – Anthills & Brain Training With Einstein

 

We missed our usual slot last week due to unforeseen circumstances, but Mobile Musings is back, and we’ve got a couple of cracking reviews for your reading pleasure.

Adrian reviews Anthill: Tactical Trail Defense (version 2.0) and Einstein Brain Trainer HD on the iPad, with one getting much praise and the other not so much. Read on to see what he thought of both games.

Anthill: Tactical Trail Defense (version 2.0)
(iTunes Preview)

Put together by a small team from Sweden, Anthill puts an insectoid spin on the strategy genre. With an army of ants at your control and an anthill to defend, you draw out trails for varying types of ants to follow. Understanding the differences between these types is quite important – some will carry food back to your anthill, whereas others will go head-to-head with invading bugs, and a third kind may be useful at long-range combat, but only if they find a vacant hole to hide in. There’s a fourth kind of ant too, but we’ll come back to those – what’s important is that they each do different things, and don’t cross over their roles. Meaning if you don’t protect your workers, they’ll get eaten alive, leaving you without food to replace your fighters – whereas too many fighters means that you won’t be gathering food as fast and cannot expand quickly. Managing your resources and maintaining this vicious cycle is the core struggle of Anthill.

Levels range in size, and using all of the typical touch gestures you’d expect gets you around the screen nicely. Doing so allows you to scope out enemies, as well as potential food sources and treasures for your workers to start hauling back once you’ve cleared a path for them. As the waves of enemies begin you’ll notice enemy movement is sometimes a very direct affront onto your anthill, but just as often quite subdued and vague, meaning not every target out there need be an imminent one. Your fourth and final type of ant is a little different in being the only that does not need a trail to follow, and instead bombs any area you choose to tap on – making this ideal for these meandering, farther-away enemies, provided you can accurately predict where they will be by the time your ants have made their way to the bomb site (often easier said than done). Each level has its own targets based on score, where meeting these goals rewards you with stars – a currency used to upgrade key attributes of your ants. Given these stars are finite, the temptation to go back to earlier levels is always there if you’re struggling with a trickier later level and need some extra speed or strength.

Anthill is deceptive in its simplicity. You can show someone how to play in a matter of seconds, but there’s enough room to apply skill and tactics to make it good; a game that’s entirely portable yet not as shallow as you may expect. As the screenshots show, it’s plenty colourful and vibrant, and the entire presentation of it is equally cohesive and charming. A more recent update has added an ‘unlimited’ mode, but even with this aside there’s plenty to recommend, especially if you fancy some strategy on the go. 9/10

Einstein Brain Trainer HD
(iTunes Preview)

Forsaking Dr Kawashima, even if not his ways, this iOS title has opted instead to adopt one of history’s greatest minds – Einstein – to lead its foray into the world of flexing your grey matter… presumably being dead for centuries makes him a lot easier & cheaper to licence. Anyway, if you’ve ever seen any title like this before you’ll know exactly where to begin – input your details, run a few tests, be told you’re a very clever chappy / chappette, now see if doing some more minigames makes you smarter! You’re set up with the aim of coming back each day to run some more tests, but if you’re looking for more instant gratification you can pick and choose at your tests to try and improve your scores at any point too. Each test also has the obligatory science stashed in a menu beside it, so if you ever wanted to know just which part of your brain should be hurting when doing basic arithmetic, your troubles are over. All of your results are tracked through some neat-looking graphs, and any profound leaps and bounds in your progress are reflected in an upgrade in your ranking, the game’s equivalent of a patronising little rub on the head.

The meat of the game is in the tests themselves, and whilst a few of them are fairly fun the first time round, none are particularly outstanding. However there are some that are notably more frustrating or lazy – such as “count out loud to 100 as fast as you can”; a test you’d think would use the iPad’s microphone, but instead just relies on you to do it correctly, and on your own good nature to press a big button only when you’re done. For those who would rather test your cunning than your intelligence, there’s quite a few other opportunities to cheat too – especially when it comes to memory tests and accidental cameraphone snaps. Perhaps the biggest criticism though is the number of tests – under each of the four categories (Vision, Memory, Logic, and Calculation) only 3 games are available, unless you’re willing to pay for the other half of the game that is dangled in front of your nose like a virtual carrot.

It’s got a clean interface, it’s pleasant enough, but more critically is it any fun? If you’re looking very specifically for a Brain Training title, you could certainly do a lot worse, with the iOS space in particular being crowded with any number of cheap clones diluting down the golden formula. But to look at it objectively as a game, it’s not going to last you long, and it’s not going to get you particularly excited, unless you’re the type that was excited about sitting your 11-plus. Between this and CERN trampling on the theory of relativity, it’s not been a good year for Einstein. Here’s hoping for a better 2012, Albert. 5/10

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