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Mobile Devices | The Gamers Blog

Mur­der. Mys­tery. Intrigue.

If these are all things that you like to see pack­aged into an iOS game then you need to take a look at what ERS Game Stu­dios has to offer. In addi­tion to devel­op­ing games for the iOS plat­form there are also PC, Mac and Online games to choose from span­ning across a range of dif­fer­ent gen­res includ­ing: IHOG, Puzzle/Adventure and Sim/Strategy. Formed in 2006, ERS Game Stu­dios has devel­oped a world­wide fol­low­ing attrib­uted largely in my opin­ion to the pol­ished game­play and stun­ning graph­ics that some term ‘illus­tra­tive real­ism’. There are numer­ous reviews of the var­i­ous ERS games out there and the qual­ity of the final prod­uct and the graph­ics are always a big talk­ing point.

I’ve been play­ing the iPhone and iPad ver­sions of ERS Stu­dios games for a while now and I’m glad I’ve now got the oppor­tu­nity to talk a lit­tle bit about what attracts me to them and why I think they are so amaz­ing. I started off play­ing ‘The Mys­tery of Joyville: Pup­pet Show’ which I found while brows­ing the App Store, as soon as I’d com­pleted the game I actu­ally looked up the game devel­op­ers, found out what else they had released and got down­load­ing. So far I’ve com­pleted five of the eight iOS games that have been released, I’ve listed the titles of the eight games below (screen­shots alon­side this review are taken from Music of Death and Curse of the Raven) and you can find out more from the ERS Game Stu­dios web­site. Where avail­able it’s def­i­nitely worth spring­ing for the col­lec­tors edi­tions to get the bonus con­tent at the end.

  • Mae­stro: Music of Death
  • Haunted Leg­ends: The Queen of Spades
  • Haunted Halls: Green Hills Sanitarium
  • Dark Tales: Edgar Allan Poe’s The Black Cat
  • Redemp­tion Ceme­tery: Curse of the Raven
  • Dark Tales: Edgar Allan Poe’s Mur­ders in the Rue Morgue
  • Pup­pet­Show: Mys­tery of Joyville
  • Hid­den Won­ders of the Depths 2: Around the World

As with all IHOG games there seems to be a com­bi­na­tion of fac­tors which make them appeal­ing rather than tedious, a really nice aspect to these games is that many tend to run in series, for exam­ple, the lat­est games I’ve played ‘Mae­stro: Music of Death’ and ‘Redemp­tion Ceme­tery: Curse of the Raven’ both have sequels com­ing soon and it seems like a nat­ural pro­gres­sion for the games rather than some­thing that is forced to get a new game out quickly. Another aspect of the games that appeals to me is the tie in with Edgar Allen Poe’s sto­ries, Poe being best known for writ­ing tales of the macabre. It’s amaz­ing how well the games in the series work along­side Poe’s dark themes which often dealt with death, rean­i­ma­tion of the dead and mourning .

When you first start one of the ERS games, lit­er­ally when you touch the icon you know that effort has gone into mak­ing it, there is a sense of becom­ing involved in the story by adding a cinematic-style open­ing which com­bined with the music really make the game inter­est­ing from the start. You know what your objec­tive is and now you need to work through the con­tent to achieve it. The story is a true mys­tery and your role is to act in a detec­tive capac­ity to fig­ure it out, the puz­zles are not hard but they will get your brain work­ing and the hid­den object scenes are just fan­tas­tic, they are mini­ture works of art which are a plea­sure to behold. ERS Game Stu­dios also have the graphics-music com­bi­na­tion nailed, and I find myself hum­ming along as I try to find the objects hid­den within the scene. In each game the game­play is slightly dif­fer­ent and you need to con­stantly adapt to the sit­u­a­tion as it unfolds. It’s not brain sci­ence, you won’t achieve mensa sta­tus by solv­ing the puz­zles, but they are fun and progress the sto­ry­line in a way that keeps you enter­tained and eager to find out what hap­pens next.

In gen­eral these games get excel­lent reviews, the only recur­ring critism seems to be that they are lack­ing in orig­i­nal­ity and per­haps do not lend as much of a chal­lenge as some would like to see, as eluded to above. Both are valid points, but I think that it would be very dif­fi­cult to cre­ate a truly orig­i­nal story in this par­tic­u­lar genre, of course that’s not a rea­son not to try, but I’d also be con­cerned that by chang­ing the for­mat too much it would remove some­thing fun­da­men­tal to the suc­cess of games like these, tak­ing away the rea­son that so many peo­ple love them, it’s that mys­tery, work­ing through the process and pro­gress­ing through the story that makes these games appeal­ing. I also think that mak­ing the puz­zles within the game or the game­play more chal­leng­ing is more a ques­tion of appeal­ing to the right demo­graphic, ERS Games Stu­dios pride them­selves on being casual game devel­op­ers, these are games you are sup­posed to be able to pick up and run through with­out it being so dif­fi­cult that you end up frus­trated by the whole thing and fling your iPhone/iPad across the room, essen­tially they are feel-good games that allow you to get the lit­tle grey cells work­ing and have that sense of achieve­ment at the end. They are great games for what they are designed to be.

To wrap up, here are some of the game fea­tures that might be of interest:

  • You can play a cer­tain amount of the con­tent for free before pur­chas­ing the game
  • There is an in-game tuto­r­ial to get you started
  • Some games have a strat­egy guide (in case you get stuck)
  • The col­lec­tors edi­tions have spe­cial bonus content
  • The game saves as you go, just start and stop when you like

These type of games are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but there is def­i­nitely more than meets the eye and it’s def­i­nitely worth a look.

In a vir­tual sense of course! If the answer to the ques­tion is yes then I’ve got just what you need, that is if you’re not one of the hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple who have down­loaded the game already, grab your iPhone or iPad and down­load the iOS game Pan­demic 2.5 from the App Store. This game has been devel­oped by the team at Dark Realm Stu­dios and was released to the Apple App Store back in May 2012 where it lit­er­ally shot up the charts.

The aim of Pan­demic is to cre­ate a suit­ably infec­tious dis­ease and then man­age its spread through the worlds pop­u­la­tion; the dis­ease needs to infect every per­son in each of the 21 regions and then be lethal enough to kill them off, cre­at­ing your very own extinc­tion event. You cre­ate your dis­ease by select­ing from a range of symp­toms, resis­tances (e.g., heat, cold, drug resis­tances) and traits which com­bine to hope­fully increase it’s effec­tive­ness; all the time the clock is tick­ing and you need to adapt to coun­ter­act gov­ern­ment mea­sures to con­trol  and man­age the spread of the dis­ease, this is done by clos­ing bor­ders and cre­at­ing vac­cines. Gov­ern­ments on each con­ti­nent will start imple­ment­ing mea­sures to reduce the spread of the dis­ease once it becomes vis­i­ble, so gen­er­ally I try and keep the vis­i­bil­ity down for the longest time while try­ing to infect as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble e.g., choose symp­toms for your dis­ease which a per­son wouldn’t nor­mally seek med­ical help for but would still make con­tact with other peo­ple. Once your dis­ease is vis­i­ble ensure it gets every­where and is as lethal as pos­si­ble. There are three lev­els: Casual, Nor­mal and Mada­gas­car (increas­ing in dif­fi­culty) and you can also choose to cre­ate a bac­te­r­ial, viral or par­a­sitic dis­ease. Addi­tion­ally, you do have the the abil­ity to stop the clock while you make changes to your dis­ease, tak­ing advan­tage of the Evo­Points you accu­mu­late as you infect the pop­u­la­tion. Evo­Points are used in the game to evolve your dis­ease by adding new genes and traits.

I’m not sure what it says about me, but I took to this game quite quickly; I think you have to be a bit Borg-like in your approach and adapt, com­ing back stronger than before when you fail to achieve your main objec­tive. Maybe the degree in bio­chem­istry and micro­bi­ol­ogy helped a lit­tle! I would love to know what other sci­ence geeks think about Pan­demic, I for one was really impressed with the sci­ence behind the game. I’m sure we could ana­lyze each minute detail and come up with some­thing dubi­ous, but for a game like this I think it was amaz­ingly thought out, you could apply real life bio­log­i­cal prin­ci­ples and get a real life result — very very cool.

The strat­egy behind cre­at­ing and deploy­ing your dis­ease (and of course get­ting to name your own dis­ease) is def­i­nitely the best aspect of the game in my opin­ion. The only thing I did find was that you some­times had to wait for long peri­ods of time sim­ply watch­ing your dis­ease prop­a­gate, or not as the case may be, espe­cially when you know you are not going to be able to exter­mi­nate all of human­ity — some­times I wished I could just skip to the game stats to see how I did before tak­ing another run at it.

One other point of note, in the forums there were a num­ber of peo­ple who were a lit­tle frus­trated by the games ini­tial lack of instruc­tional con­tent, and I agree that I did find that I was work­ing out a lot of the game play through trial and error; but Dark Realm Stu­dios was not unsym­pa­thetic to this feed­back and in update 1.1 they released, amongst other things, a new game tuto­r­ial which hope­fully helped with start­ing out in the game and pre­vent­ing some of the frus­tra­tion of just not being able to wipe out humanity.

This is a great game, more than worth the £0.69 price tag.


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