Hyperdimension Neptunia: the Animation and the Re;Birth series (Monthly Musing, June 2019)

Nowi Wins I have had this planned for months on end, and now it’s finally time to make it a reality. The topic is Hyperdimension Neptunia, a video game series about video games and cute girls. It also has an animated adaptation, which is actually the starting point of this review because it was my first experience with the series.

The Animation

It all started one Spring Break when I was in college. I had the wild idea of watching the first episodes of seven anime series, one per day of the week. This gave me a glimpse of series with which I was at first unfamiliar, such as Squid Girl, GJ-bu, and the one in question. In this case, I was drawn in by the cute girls (yeah, typical) and ended up intrigued by the interactions among them; thus, needless to say, I continued all the way to the end of the series.

That time was six years ago, enough for me to have forgotten all but a few bits and pieces. So, naturally, I took two consecutive days of this month (of this week, even) to binge rewatch the animation in order to understand it better now that I’ve completed the Re;Birth games. It worked out, although surprisingly the animation takes place in a separate canon from the games despite being chock-full of inspired elements. (Not just the characters and settings, but even elements as intricate as poses.) That is to say, it’s not so much an animated adaptation as it is an alternative story (kinda like Unlimited Fafnir but even more improvised).

The first time I watched the anime was with subtitles, so I decided this time to try out the English dub, also partly because I’m more accustomed to the English voices on account of my experience with the games (and, call it a surprise, but I prefer the English voices to the Japanese voices). About it…well, first off, it’s definitely not suited for folk with a low tolerance for jokes. Jokes as in memes (arrow to the knee, do a barrel roll), name drops (e.g. Gears of War, Punch Out, The Last of Us, Uncharted), and basic gags (such as chest-related quips and Neptune messing up Arfoire’s name). On the bright side, Blanc’s emotionless voice was done better in the anime than in the games (strictly talking English dubs, of course), although hearing it from her HDD form (which happened at least twice) just didn’t seem right.

In terms of characters, I found Plutia to be the best in the anime the first time I watched it, and I stand by that even now, despite that Blanc is my favorite in the games; that’s just how different the two media are. I like Plutia because her human form is charmingly absentminded while her HDD form is stunningly dominant, and she uses those traits to play devil’s advocate in situations that are tough to comprehend. On another note, the animation doesn’t feature quite as many characters as the games, having relegated a few to cameo roles (MAGES. and every Oracle but Histoire) and nixed many more. (The only minor character of note is 5pb.) This, for one, leaves an odd cast of villains: Abnes, Underling, CFW Trick (of all characters), Arfoire, Warechu, Anonydeath, and Rei Ryghts.

Re;Birth series

Come early 2017, after I had assembled a Windows machine and acquired Re;Birth 1 on sale, I wanted to give the game a try. It has the same sort of charm as the animation, but with more immersion and less restraint on the erotica (e.g. you can see up the girls’ skirts). As a video game, it’s kinda like a Tales game but simplified—the combat is turn-based (instead of real-time) and involves attack ranges reminiscent of a tactics game, while the cutscenes are dominantly 2D. (Well, 2.5D if you count the effects that make the characters look like they’re breathing.)

I mentioned Blanc being my favorite in the games, and now to provide reasoning. She is relatable in being emotionless yet short-tempered, she symbolizes Nintendo, she has the best Rush attack in the series (Satellabute), and most importantly she takes hits like nobody else. (She also somewhat resembles Yō Kasukabe from the Mondaiji series.) (Plutia is decent with her magical prowess and healing skills, but her main issue is her frailty.) I also like Broccoli due to her cuteness (especially when she jumps around like “Jump, nyu!” and “Boingy, nyu!”), sharp tongue, and fun set of skills (particularly “Mekara Beam?”, which is comedic and heals a whopping 80% of a close-range target’s HP). And, on an unrelated note, Purple Heart has always reminded me of Yami Yugi.

Other aspects have the right to be organized specifically by installment.

Re;Birth 1

  • Only has three party slots, each containing up to two characters
  • Has the most difficult main story
    • The Hraesvelgr + Black Heart tag team battle is notoriously punishing towards reckless SP use (the only place I’ve gotten a Game Over in the main story)
    • Fake CPU fights are also tough, especially Fake Green Heart (pulls no punches) and Fake White Heart (tedious)
  • Features a vast multitude of characters who only appear as simple portraits in cutscenes (e.g., Financier, Yvoire, Ran-Ran)
  • One Two Three, the music that plays when you fight a dangerous enemy, is surprisingly good
  • Has a Normal Ending and a True Ending, which are dependent on Shares and no different until after the True Arfoire fight
  • The only installment for which I didn’t bother unlocking all achievements (100 million credits without Symbol Attack Gains…nah)
  • Speaking of being without Symbol Attack Gains, Clione is a nasty post-game enemy.

Re;Birth 2

  • I was considering skipping this installment, but I was persuaded otherwise, and I’m glad for that
  • Formally introduced the Candidates, the Oracles, and some of the villains
    • Also sheds the most light on the human characters (IF, Compa, Broccoli, and the rest)
  • Is the only Re;Birth game to feature Nepgear as a protagonist
    • While not as comedy-oriented as Neptune, she partly makes up for that with the phrase “What the goodness”
    • She starts off wishy-washy and is left in a situation where she must take charge, making her more relatable to young adults
  • Convinced me that Uni is a better Noire…somehow
  • Added the fourth party slot
  • Has the best dungeon music but the worst audio balancing
    • Magmatic Magnetics and History of Collapse are particularly good dungeon themes, especially the former
    • world map music is too loud, especially compared to the better tunes
    • also the only installment that lacks One Two Three
  • The only installment with cutscene triggers that block off certain parts of dungeons (bleh)
  • Has a whopping nine endings, of which a few have their share of similarities and most are dependent not only on Shares but also Lily Rank
    ReBirth 2 ending alignment

    • Normal Ending: Since there are so many endings in the game, this one might feel cheaply earned compared to the rest, further complemented by the fact that it’s the only one without an accompanying image (I used the background of the final cutscene). It’s also the basis of the Planeptune, Lastation, Lowee, Leanbox, and Human Endings.
    • Planeptune Ending: Centered around Planeptune’s Shares and Nepgear’s Lily Rank with Neptune. Lawful Evil = Nepgear hoarding Shares for her own nation
    • Lastation Ending: Centered around Lastation’s Shares and Nepgear’s Lily Rank with Noire and Uni. Chaotic Neutral = heated rivals in perfect harmony
    • Lowee Ending: Centered around Lowee’s Shares and Nepgear’s Lily Rank with Blanc, Rom, and Ram. Lawful Neutral = partners in the civilized activity of reading
    • Leanbox Ending: Centered around Leanbox’s Shares and Nepgear’s Lily Rank with Vert. Neutral Good = giving Vert a new sister
    • Human Ending: Centered around recruiting human characters and bonding with them. Neutral Evil = forgoing the other Candidates/CPUs in favor of a pyjama party
    • Conquest Ending: Hands down, the highlight of Re;Birth 2 as a whole. Mind-numbing in unlock criteria and plot alike. Contains unexpectedly morbid events reminiscent of the Zero Escape series and Of Mice and Men. Makes elegant use of the Decisive Battle and Tear Drop music tracks. Chaotic Evil = sacrificing as much as possible to “save the world”
    • Holy Sword Ending: With a difference of only one recruited character from Conquest Ending, this takes the murder weapon thereof and rectifies it. More importantly, contains a boss rush featuring the Four Felons and the Deity of Sin. Chaotic Good = turning a nasty rumor on its head
    • True Ending: Centered around balancing Shares, keeping them away from Arfoire, and recruiting everyone possible. Goes down similarly to Holy Sword Ending, except with a bath scene, the boss rush split into three extra dungeons, an extra bit with Underling and Warechu, the true form of the Deity of Sin, and no nasty rumor. (Kinda drab if done after Holy Sword.) Lawful Good should be obvious
  • Introduced the Symbol Attack Gains plan, making grinding and post-game content significantly easier
  • Introduced Menu Voices, an improvement towards immersion and humor
  • Introduced Stella’s Dungeon, a mobile-esque minigame that advances in real time
    • I cleared every single floor sequentially without computer time manipulation, and it took me about a year and a half overall
  • Has the toughest Colosseum fights (especially Gamer Legend and Goddess of Calamity)
  • Introduced DLC bundled with the Steam release (mostly equipment in this case)

In the prime of my time playing through this installment, I had issues with crashes relating to entering dungeons affected by Dungeon Change. The troubleshooting step recommended by most Steam users is to use CFF Explorer; load the executable, locate Nt Headers ==> File Header, click the cell intersected by the “Characteristics” row and “Meaning” column, and check “App can handle >2gb address space”. That helped a bit, but the game continued crashing later on, and what I did to stop that for good is make sure to always reboot my PC before starting the game. (Thankfully, thanks to the newer patches, I don’t have to do that anymore.)

Re;Birth 3

  • Suddenly the “Hyperdimension” part of the series name makes more sense
  • Introduced the rest of the villains, along with Plutia and Peashy
    • Speaking of Plutia, I like it when she says “It’s my best!” when using Plutie Attack and “You’re a meanie!” when getting hit
  • Relegated the human characters and Oracles to DLC
  • Introduced Nepstation, which presents special varieties of per-chapter cutscenes inspired by television programs
  • Introduced Challenges, an internal achievement system of mundane tasks
    • The new source of Menu Voices (split among characters)
    • Not worth grinding for, considering the obscene requirements for Marathon Runner (I mean, freaking 5,000,000 meters with every character? I’ve only hit the 300,000 benchmark with one character!)
  • Has possibly the best cutscene in the series: the interaction between Plutia and Blanc when they’re imprisoned in Lowee
  • Fused together EXE Drive and SP
  • Made extra layers of the overworld: G.C.2012, Plutia’s dimension, and the lands within Plutia’s dimension
  • Has the best music overall (featuring Nobuo Uematsu, even)
  • Simplified Stella’s Dungeon, but also made Symbol Attack Gains exclusive to it
    • Also includes punny unlockables such as “95 Broken Windows”
  • Has three endings (Normal, Good, and True), which go back to the basics of building up from least to most progress
  • Steam release includes level 999 DLC
    • Speaking of which, Gacrux is the toughest enemy in the game
  • Too many freaking plans require the Deployment Shard, an item that can only be obtained from an enemy that only appears once after every True Ending (I’ve had to procure the drop three times total, i.e. clear True Ending two extra times)

Conclusion

I would rate the series 9/10, based on my overall experience so far. It is certainly what I would call fun, and that’s all that matters in the end.

Nowi Wins À la prochaine! (Until next time!)

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Just Another Progress Report (Monthly Musing, May 2019)

My month has been hectic and largely work-focused, so my thoughts have been all over the place. You know what that means…

First things first, ever since I completed Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1 in early 2017, I’ve set up for myself a tradition of sorts that I call NepJune. The simplicity of the pun equates to that of the concept: I start a new Neptunia game every June. Since I started Re;Birth 2 in 2017 and Re;Birth 3 in 2018, I’ll start the next installment (Neptunia U: Action Unleashed) this June. (Then will be Mega VII, Sega, and 4GO. I plan to do Hyperdevotion Noire and MegaTagmension Blanc at my leisure before and after Mega VII, since those are evidently spin-offs. All games mentioned are ones that I got on sale.) Re;Birth 3 was a doozy to complete as far as Quests, level 999 grinding, Plans, and Colosseum battles, yet I was considering grinding Challenges until I realized how short my time was (and how tedious some of the Challenges are, especially Marathon Runner). Anyway, here’s the take-away: Next Monthly Musing will be dedicated to the Re;Birth 1-3 mass review that I’ve been planning for months on end. (This also includes the animated adaptation, so I’ll have to watch through that again.)

Second, I have found the inspiration to complete Part 1 of LUMP (Lana’s Unprecedented Mashup Pilgrimage), which I kinda foreshadowed last month. It entails the events of Melemele Island and can be viewed here. (For the record, I did intend for the prologue to be integrated in there.) I owe the inspiration mostly to Isekai Quartet airing this season while the Sun/Moon anime is still ongoing.

Other things…

  • Persona Q2 is coming out in a few days (i.e. June 4), so odds are I’ll be playing through it starting then.
  • Phoenotopia: I want to complete a Most Dangerous Arsenal run one of these days (because it’s the only category that currently has no runs under it), and the thought occurred to me earlier this week when I was thinking about what to do with the paid leave that I had put in for the week (which I decided based on my workload this month and the next). I recently got a run up to Dread Lands, where I had forgotten so much of the route and flubbed enough that I got fed up with the run.
  • Cinq du Soleil: Even though I have inspiration in spades to write LUMP (partly because I’m excited to write out what I have planned for Akala Island), I can’t say the same of Cinq du Soleil. In the midst of writing Chapter 14, with all the ideas running through my head about planned and written chapters alike, I figured I’d want to write a prequel to the story. It will be called Cinq du Passé (“passé” meaning “past” and rhyming with “soleil”), and it will entail the lives of the five female protagonists before they became part of the team. Thing is, I’ve written a decent chunk from Yue’s perspective, but that’s where the news ends, i.e. there’s no telling what will happen from there.

 

À la prochaine! (Until next time!)

Pokémon Sun and Moon: the animation (Monthly Musing, April 2019)

Some might call it a travesty, especially considering XY&Z aired just before it. I was like that at first; I thought at first that Ash and Pikachu were so poorly animated (Team Rocket too, but they’re not as important) that I wouldn’t be able to bring myself to even start watching it…but now, as someone long past that hurdle, I only have one thing to say about it:

(Disclaimer: I have not watched Goblin Slayer, nor do I plan to.)

Beyond the hurdle lies a multitude of interesting twists to the games off which they’re based, some possibly being concepts that didn’t make the cut. (For one, the Rotom Dex actually has a personality and isn’t nearly as obnoxious.) The Sun and Moon games never really had any sport-related minigames except Mantine Surfing, yet the show has ping-pong, baseball, gymnastics, golfing, various races, and even ninja training. (Well, perchance they exhausted their sports-related creativity in HeartGold/SoulSilver’s Pokéathlon.) There’s also a bit of extra Kanto flavor—Meltan, a shaggy Eevee, and even guest appearances by Brock and Misty—because the producers sure like their first generation. (I personally am fed up with how much they’re milking it. Like, why are Alolan forms only of Kanto Pokémon? What of the other regions? I’m also peeved that no new Mega Evolutions were introduced.) I gotta admit, though, episode 21 was particularly tear-jerking, and it brought to light the otherwise obscure Snowbelle City theme that debuted in X&Y.

But more importantly, there are two main reasons why I continue watching the Sun/Moon anime to this day.

One reason is a Bewear that serves as a maternal figure for Team Rocket. She contributes heavily to the humor of the series, having the insane strength and speed to always put an abrupt end to Team Rocket’s wicked schemes for her own sake. Her antics are enhanced with episode-themed props and later (starting episode 96) her long lost child Stufful. Amazingly, she even defeats a Pheromosa in episode 114!

Now, the other (and better) reason?

This lovely lass: Lana, also known as Néphie (French) or Suiren (スイレン). She’s been my favorite since playing the games, and watching the anime has bolstered my infatuation with her. (“‘Lana’ backwards is ‘anal'” crap be darned.) I mean, I shuddered a bit when I first heard how raspy her Japanese voice was, but I found that easier to get used to than the animation style, and now I actually consider it part of her cuteness. (At least it’s not Kiawe’s English voice, which makes him sound so unfittingly like a wuss.)

She may look young compared to her peers, but she has the composure of an older sister and stands tall in the face of adversity. Think Blanc from Hyperdimension Neptunia, except not as temperamental and with less distinguishable (but more persuadable) twin sisters. She’s also the third protagonist (after Kiawe and Ash, i.e. the first female) to obtain a Z-Ring, followed by Lillie and Sophocles much later. Speaking of the protagonists, they were given Poké Rides to fly with upon becoming Ultra Guardians, and Lana’s is the second least natural (only to Ash’s Garchomp): Dragonair. (The others—in ascending order of natural—are Sophocles’s Metang, Mallow’s Flygon, Lillie’s Altaria, and Kiawe’s Charizard.)

Best of all, unlike in the games, Lana sheds her outer clothing when she needs to swim, like so:

(The scene here is from episode 42. No, the subtitle is not official.)

I have to say, though: Thinking about how Lana normally wears a one-piece swimsuit under her clothes, doesn’t that make it an inconvenience for her to use the restroom? Just a little food for thought that I can’t help mulling over every now and then.

Regardless, here’s the take-away about Lana. Even though Alola does not have Pokémon Contests, Lana is the most befitting of all five categories: Beautiful, Clever, Cool, Cute, and Tough.

  • Beautiful: Arguably her swimsuit figure, but most appropriately…
  • Clever: It takes insane precision to sink nine balls at once in billiards.
  • Cool: When she gets serious, she really gets serious.
  • Cute: Mostly her reactions to being paired with Ash.
  • Tough: She did an Island Trial where she had to combat a school of Wishiwashi. Later on, when roared at by a Gyarados, she just stood dauntlessly before diving right into its territory (hence the Ep 42 scene).

Honorable mentions go to when she playfully tells lies or scares people, and relevantly that one time she wore Mimikyu’s disguise on her head:

And now, I can only contain my hype for episode 120 in white text.
[Well I’ll be. I never thought Lana would actually be privileged to meet a Kyogre rod-to-mouth. And to think that she’ll have a Primarina mid-episode? This is filling me with unbearable anticipation.]

 

Overall rating: 8/10, as I normally rate Pokémon anime. Guess I’d consider it like Unlimited Fafnir: The animation and story are not much to behold, but one character (technically 1.5 in this case, the .5 being Bewear) sparkles like a diamond in the rough.

This post may or may not indicate a near breaking point of progress through LUMP, a crossover fanfiction that I teased and went over briefly in Brain Food #2.

À la prochaine! (Until next time!)

Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon (Monthly Musing, March 2019)

The Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series has always intrigued me. It was one of the first spinoff series I’d ever been introduced to, starting with a demo of Red Rescue Team on GameBoy Advance. Essentially, the Trainer and Pokémon concepts of the main series are meshed together in a top-down exploration adventure with turn-based combat. Yet despite how intriguing the series is, I never really felt inclined to play any of it beyond Explorers of Darkness for the Nintendo DS…that is, until just this year. When 360chrism was streaming his first Explorers of Sky playthrough, I dropped by a few streams (probably lurking) and noticed chat saying Super Mystery Dungeon was good (whereas Gates to Infinity was never vouched for), which ultimately compelled me to buy the game at 5/8 price and try it for myself.

Overall rating (early this time): 8.8/10. The gameplay is a bit clunky, especially in the beginning, but it gets better as it goes on and contains all the elements to be expected of a Pokémon Mystery Dungeon game: fun, frustration, and a heartfelt story with minimal dependence on previous installments. Also, the final boss was a pleasant surprise…[considering every boss in Darkness was a Pokémon and the non-Pokémon enemies of Super were a fun sort of gimmicky.] <- Homemade spoiler tag

Super Mystery Dungeon was released during the sixth generation of Pokémon, which means it has Mega Evolutions (in a roundabout way) and contains the first 720 Pokémon of the National Pokédex (i.e. sadly no Volcanion). It lacks Hidden Abilities, which is a bit irritating, but at least it has an Ability-changing item and tutor moves. And more importantly, it abandons the complicated methods of evolution (Darkness facilitated only some, and to a less significant degree) and only goes by level requirement if applicable (although evolution cannot be done until the epilogue).

A few mechanics that differentiate Super Mystery Dungeon from the pre-3D installments:

  • Recruitment is very non-standard. The tradition before was to KO Pokémon for a chance to recruit them, but now certain Pokémon provide certain expeditions in order for guaranteed recruitment (and some will even join if you interact with them in the overworld). This proves a benefactor to immersion, but it also means that you can’t nickname any Pokémon but your starter and partner.
  • Alongside the usual Orbs, Super Mystery Dungeon has a more compact form of item called Wands, which you use to fire a finite number of magic projectiles with special effects.
  • Looplets are held items that become incrementally useful as you pick up temporary collectibles called Emeras, each with its own special effect. (A particular Emera (Awakening) is what allows Mega Evolution.)
  • Arguably the most fun mechanic of all, the in-game days sometimes present a trio of “motivated” Pokémon that can be put into the expedition team for additional experience. I call it “fun” because it encourages variety in team formations.

On the anecdotal side of things, I answered the personality quiz honestly and ended up with Turtwig as a starter. The game suggested Pikachu as a partner, but that’s not a good complement, so I refused and was able to instead choose Fennekin as my partner. (It was the best complement of the gen 6 choices.) Starter and partner names were Franklin and Helga respectively, and I named my team the Hundreds. My playtime so far is roughly 100 hours, and I have the most difficult quarter of the game left to complete.

 

À la prochaine! (Until next time!)

The story continues (Monthly Musing, Feb 2019)

Previously on Vouiv-review:

And now…it’s been more than a year and a half. You could say my pace has slowed threefold and not be wrong. This and that have been happening: writer’s block, adult responsibilities, other entertainment, etc. etc. But I have now succeeded in finding inspiration enough to complete the third part. I’ll also list the others in case you missed them.

Between the new chapter set and the previous, I am becoming increasingly aware of how much harder the story is to construct the more it develops. The notable difficulty is keeping things fresh while staying consistent with prior elements, or possibly tying up loose ends without being repetitive. And if you recall when I mentioned in my second post how difficult it was to write Chapter 8, the same sort of thing happened with Chapter 13 (and, to a lesser extent, Chapter 12) due to the abundance of casual events and setting the stage for the obligatory [tournament] arc coming up in the next chapter set. (It’s hinted at in Chapter 9, but I’ll hide it just in case.)

By the way, if Chapter 13 seems rushed, that’s because it kinda is. Among the characters, concepts, and tying up loose ends, there was so much to fit in that I suddenly had less room for fully planning and explaining the five days compressed into the one chapter, by which the part lengths turned out rather inconsistent. It was all for the sake of not making the part document too long, using the previous part as a maximum.

I don’t feel inclined to go into too much further detail here, so I’ll just list the number of pages per chapter. There are bits of white text in here, so use caution when highlighting.

  • Introductory content: 7
  • Chapter 1: 11
  • Chapter 2: 15
  • Chapter 3: 15
  • Chapter 4: 24 including 4.5
  • Chapter 5: 13
  • Chapter 6: 14
  • Chapter 7: 20
  • Chapter 8: 35 including 8.5 and alchemy combinations
  • Chapter 9: 26
  • Chapter 10: 20
  • Chapter 11: 15
  • Chapter 12: 16 including Hibari’s “information sheet”
  • Chapter 13: 40 (11-page part 1, 8-page part 2, 10-page part 3, 6-page part 4, and 5-page part 5)

Chapter sets in respective order have 87, 101, and 101 pages (including the table of contents).

 

À la prochaine! (Until next time!)

Conceptis Mobile Apps for iOS (Monthly Musing, Jan 2019)

Know it or not, I’ve been enjoying Conceptis puzzles since I stumbled upon Calcudoku on the Flash game website OneMoreLevel. Back then, my primary medium was the Flash website, which inspired me to write a few related articles:

A few months after writing the Block-a-Pix article, I was surprised to find that the Conceptis Twitter account had retweeted the automated Tweet that went up in unison with the publication of the article. Even later on, Conceptis went on this very site and gave positive feedback on the article, asking in the same comment for feedback on their mobile app. I was literally unable to at the time, considering I was an Android user and the app was only on iOS, but I haven’t directly said anything else since then, which I imagine can only be interpreted as leaving them in the dark. As such, I aim today to bring to light what this month has brought to my mind regarding Conceptis (and part of it is already in the light by now).

The happenings of this month mostly tie in with getting a new mobile device for Christmas. Got an iOS phone with quadruple the storage space of the Android device that I had, so instead of having a phone so filled to the brim with necessity apps that I have to limit myself to one Conceptis app at a time to minimize complaints about lacking storage space, I can now have all 16 currently released iOS apps concurrently without any problem whatsoever. Oh, how that contributes to the fun factor. (No, really.)

Anyway, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. First off, know that not every variety of Conceptis puzzle has a mobile counterpart, not even on iOS…in case that wasn’t clear from that I mentioned 18 puzzle varieties from my prior articles and that there are 16 apps on iOS (although what I haven’t mentioned yet is that two of them are subsets of Sudoku). The following puzzle varieties currently lack mobile apps:

  • Calcudoku – Imaginably low priority because it highly resembles SumSudoku (one of the aforementioned subsets of Sudoku). That said, I look forward to the possibility, because Calcudoku is where I started and SumSudoku is morbidly difficult.
  • Skyscrapers – Since the Battleships app was given the name SeaBattle, I have a feeling that Skyscrapers would get the same treatment. That, in turn, leads me to think that part of the reason why Skyscrapers doesn’t have an app is the difficulty in nomenclature.
  • Hitori – Similar in mechanics to Tic-Tac-Logic, therefore sure to be coming soon. (At least, I hope so.)
  • Maze-a-Pix – Considering Dot-a-Pix made the cut, I expect this to follow suit.

(Another potential setback is that higher numbers of puzzle varieties require more routinely updates requiring the same amount of attention, which in turn becomes a pain.)

Second, the mobile apps follow a particular format: 2 or 3 free Starter volumes, Weekly Bonus puzzles that come in a size 4 First-In-First-Out queue (this is a rather subtle feature that I didn’t discover before getting the better phone), and a selection of priced volumes that increase in count on a regular basis. What’s nice about the Weekly Bonus queue is that it’s not restrictive; it lets the user choose when to update, so “expired” puzzles don’t disappear until the update is agreed upon.

The improvement to free puzzles is a major boon in the transition from Flash to mobile, and it’s far from the only. The interface is so much more slick, featuring significantly lightened menus, using dual fingers to zoom in/out and pan, and no more superfluous sounds. Also worth noting is the far greater portability of mobile compared to Flash. Anything else I have to say is about specific puzzles, so here they are in descending order of number of volumes currently released (including the ones exclusive to iPad). Also, this is the part where I stop being so meticulous about my writing structure, because it was tough enough writing the whole rest of this article.

Pic-a-Pix (350)

Starters: 21 B&W and 21 Color, ranging from 5×5 Ultra easy to 15×20 Easy

Settings: Check rows/columns, Show time, Include iPad volumes

Comments: Just a minor complaint specific to this puzzle variety: Drawing lines of squares/dots isn’t as easy on mobile as in Flash.

Fill-a-Pix (322)

Starters: 21 Basic Logic ranging from 5×5 Ultra easy to 40×60 Medium, and 21 Advanced Logic ranging from 8×8 Ultra easy to 40×60 Hard

Settings: Autofill starting clues (0s, 9s, edge 6s, and corner 4s), Show errors, Show time, Use cursor, Long press, Include iPad volumes

Comments: It wasn’t until I transitioned to mobile that I realized the existence of the big cursor: a 3×3 stamp that, when you click on a number, automatically fills or crosses out the unoccupied tiles around it—extremely helpful for Basic Logic. The “Use cursor” setting does a great job at enhancing precision.

Link-a-Pix (296)

Starters: 21 B&W and 21 Color, ranging from 5×10 Ultra easy to 40×60 Easy

Settings: Autofill starting clues (1), Show errors, Show time, Use cursor, Include iPad volumes

Comments: “Use cursor” is still great for its purpose. So too is “Autofill starting clues.”

Sudoku (271)

Starters: 40 ranging from 6×6 Very easy to 9×9 Easy, 32 ranging from 6×6 Medium to 9×9 Medium plus, and 32 9×9 ranging from Hard to Very Hard

Variants: Mini, Classic, Diagonal, Irregular, OddEven (missing Chain Sudoku from Flash, but that’s too much like Irregular for me to actually care about)

Settings: Visual enhancements, Show conflicts, Show time, Include iPad volumes

Comments: “Visual enhancements” is an interesting setting. It’s the sort of thing that I’m used to when doing Conceptis puzzles, where the fixed numbers are black and the placed numbers are brown, but I can imagine Sudoku veterans—who are more accustomed to pen and paper—to find it uncanny and want to turn it off. Other than that, I really like how the Starter puzzles are presented in difficulty order on mobile (Mini first, others after), whereas the Flash site had Mini after Classic.

Hashi (232)

Starters: 30 ranging from 7×10 Very easy to 10×14 Easy, 30 ranging from 8×11 Medium to 10×14 Medium plus, and 30 Hard ranging from 9×13 to 10×14

Settings: Show errors, Show time, Include iPad volumes

Comments: Instead of clicking between islands to create bridges (in Flash), the mobile app has more intuitive mechanics where you drag from one island to another to create a bridge. …Nothing else to comment on, really.

Tic-Tac-Logic (221)

Starters: 30 Easy ranging from 6×6 to 10×14, 30 Medium ranging from 8×10 to 10×14, and 30 Hard 10×14

Settings: Show conflicts, Show time, Include iPad volumes

Comments: Might be tough for the large-fingered to interact with (take it from me), but highlighting rows/columns to check for matches is much easier on mobile than on Flash. (In Flash, you pin down a row/column by clicking, and you find matches by hovering over other rows/columns. On mobile, you just tap the row/column header and automatically find out if there is a match.)

Nurikabe (216)

Starters: 30 ranging from 6×8 Very easy to 10×14 Easy, 30 ranging from 7×10 Medium to 10×14 Medium plus, and 30 ranging from 8×11 Hard to 10×14 Very hard

Settings: Show time, Include iPad volumes

Comments: Similarly to Pic-a-Pix, it’s tougher to span a single input across multiple tiles.

Slitherlink (216)

Starters: 30 ranging from 6×8 Very easy to 10×14 Easy, 30 ranging from 7×10 Medium to 10×14 Medium plus, and 30 ranging from 8×11 Hard to 10×14 Very hard

Settings: Auto complete, Show time, Include iPad volumes

Comments: “Auto complete” works wonders. It puts so many automatic Xs on the board that I feel spoiled after the transition from Flash. Other than that? Similar issue to Tic-Tac-Logic where the inputs are hard to make.

Cross-a-Pix (137)

Starters: 21 SingleClue and 21 DualClue ranging from 7×7 (and 5×10) Very easy to 20×30 Medium

Settings: Check rows/columns, Show time, Include iPad volumes

Comments: Like Pic-a-Pix with more complex numerical logic, except it has absolutely no need for multiple square inputs per touch.

MultiSudoku (98)

Starters: 24 Easy, 24 Medium, and 24 Hard ranging from 2-Grid to 5-Grid

Settings: Visual enhancements, Show conflicts, Show time

Comments: Slightly more difficult Sudoku. What more to say?

Kakuro (81)

Starters: 40 Easy ranging from 7×9 Very easy and 14×16 Easy, 30 ranging from 8×10 Medium to 14×16 Medium plus, and 30 ranging from 10×12 Hard to 14×16 Very hard

Settings: Show errors, Show time, Include iPad volumes

Comments: Similar to Flash, yet somehow not as efficient (at least if you’re like me and use the number keys to put numbers in the squares).

SeaBattle (80)

Starters: 40 ranging from 6×6 Very easy to 10×10 Easy, 40 ranging from 8×8 Medium to 10×10 Medium plus, and 40 10×10 ranging from Hard to Very hard

Settings: Check wors/columns, Autofill Water, Show time

Comments: I like the name change from Battleships; it’s less generic and has a nicer ring to it. I also like “Autofill Water,” which is much like “Auto complete” in Slitherlink.

Block-a-Pix (71)

Starters: 25 ranging from 5×10 Ultra easy to 20×30 Medium, and 21 ranging from 30×45 Medium to 40×60 Medium plus

Settings: Autofill starting clues (1s), Show errors, Show time, Use cursor, Include iPad volumes

Comments: I’m bummed that the mobile app allows you to stretch a block beyond the highest possible dimensions, unlike the Flash site. However, “Autofill starting clues” and “Use cursor” are just as useful as in Fill-a-Pix and Link-a-Pix.

SumSudoku (62)

Starters: 30 “Easy”, 30 “Medium”, and 30 Hard (all 9×9)

Settings: Visual enhancements, Show conflicts, Show time

Comments: Way more difficult Sudoku. Arguably strange how it got release priority over Calcudoku.

Sym-a-Pix (61)

Starters: 21 Basic Logic ranging from 5×10 Very easy to 40×60 Medium plus, and 21 Advanced Logic ranging from 5×10 Easy to 40×60 Hard

Settings: Autodraw starting walls, Auto complete, Show errors, Show time, Include iPad volumes

Comments: “Autodraw starting walls” and “Auto complete” are an obscene combination, with which the 5×10 Easy “Advanced” Logic puzzle can be solved in literally one move. Also, the cursor of mobile Sym-a-Pix is probably the best cursor of any Conceptis puzzle I’ve ever done. It rests on lines, it becomes a crosshair when you move it around, and you can hold while filling in a line to draw multiple at once.

Dot-a-Pix (20)

Starters: 24 SingleLine ranging from 35 to 400 dots, and 24 MultiLine ranging from 40 to 723 dots

Settings: Show time, Include iPad volumes

Comments: Still child’s play (literally just connect-the-dots), but I have to admit that it’s well designed for what it is and also taught me the art of zooming and panning in Conceptis apps.

 

Overall rating: 9.5/10. Had them rated a flat 9 when I reviewed during the Flash era, and the mobile transition certainly bolstered that rating. That said, puzzles are naught more than a tertiary activity to me, and everything has its setbacks.