Category Archives: 4 stars

Not all runners are created equal. Some are endless, others are finite, but for the most part, we can agree that they fit the mobile platform due to their simplistic controls. Escape from the Pyramid [$1.99] is another game that both benefits and suffers from its simplicity...

After a full trilogy of games in the span of just seven months, the Five Nights At Freddy's [$2.99] series could be forgiven for taking some time off after this one. Whether or not Five Nights At Freddy's 3 [$2.99] is where it ends, you have to give this series and its developer a lot of credit. In a short span of time, it became a minor cultural phenomenon, recorded huge sales on every platform it released on, and earned success and recognition for an independent developer who has taken plenty of swings at the whole "making a game" thing before finally knocking one out of the park. Fans all around the world compare notes about the story, trying to piece together mysteries that may not have ever been intended to be solved. The titular Freddy Fazbear himself is likely more recognizable than the character he parodies among most people under a certain age. In a lot of ways, we've come a long way from the humble point and click simplicity of the first game...

'Breath of Light' Review - A Boundary Pushing Zen Like Puzzle Game

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March 27th, 2015 12:00 PM EDT by Ben Jarris in $2.99, 4 stars, Puzzle, Reviews
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Breath of Light [$2.99] is a meditative, zen like puzzle game that is beautiful, distinctive and fun to play. It's not a prototypical puzzler; it's a relaxing and unique experience which is currently rated the best new puzzle game in 92 countries by apple. The game centers around manipulating a captivating particle flow of light to pass life-force from one white lotus flower to the others by moving stones, filters, mirrors and other objects in a futuristic zen garden. The graphics are intensely beautiful, the sound track is immersive, alluring and transient. Most importantly the puzzles are challenging, surprisingly relaxing and enjoyable to solve...

Proto Raider [$4.99] makes a great first impression. Its graphics are entirely composed of ASCII symbols, giving it a striking appearance, particularly when things start to move on the screen. By this point in gaming, it's somewhat difficult to make a platform game that can immediately catch the eye, and the idea of going back to the very roots of video games for inspiration is a clever one. Behind the intriguing presentation sits a somewhat ordinary platformer with excellent level design. It reminds me of the wildly experimental days before the success of the Super Mario Bros. series dictated what platformers ought to be like. It's almost as though a lost Commodore 64 game spilled out of the time tunnel and into the App Store...

Buzz Aldrin's Space Program Manager (SPM) Road to the Moon [$9.99 (HD)], developed by Polar Motion and published by Slitherine, was first released on PC and is now out on iOS. The iPad version had an eventful launch because of a bug that made the tutorial unplayable on iPad Air devices (in a demonstration of its efficiency, Slitherine quickly identified and fixed the issue). The game puts you in the role of the Director of NASA, the Soviet Space Agency (SSA), or the fictitious Global Space Agency (GSA) as you try to launch rockets, satellites, and humans into space — and, in the case of the US and Soviet campaigns, do so before the other side does...

Magenta Arcade [$1.99] is a game in the shoot 'em up genre, which isn't really crowded, but is neither lacking for titles. But what this game does to stand out is extremely clever: it's a shmup that exploits the way that fingers exist on and around mobile touchscreens, and makes it part of the game itself. It doesn't make the game any easier, and I have some issues with the structure of the game, but this core concept makes for a ridiculously clever game...

Last year's Flappy Bird phenomenon was certainly a sight to behold. People became obsessed with it, playing again and again, just trying to push a little bit farther than their friends. Clones and homages arrived to the App Store by the bucket load, even well after Hodappy Bird [Free] rocked us all with its take. For several months, there was a heavy influence on the entire iOS market from the players to the media to the developers and publishers themselves. Then, partly snuffed out by its own creator, the whole fire just sort of went out and things went back to normal. There were some lasting lessons for those interested in picking them up, however. For one thing, simplicity isn't a four-letter word. For another, large groups of people actually like games that figuratively smash your thumb with a hammer. You don't need a slick presentation with this kind of game, since what you're really targeting is the competitive instinct and tenacity in the face of certain failure that resides in almost everyone...

Stormblades [Free] is Diet Infinity Blade [$5.99]. I say this not to demean the game or to put it down, it's just that its motivations are patently obvious. This takes Infinity Blade's combat, complete with its directional attacks and dodging in one-on-one battles against bigger enemies, but stripping down a lot of the extra features from the combat and the meta-game. The combat is simpler but familiar, the game is level-based, and there's no 'exploration', it's just about advancing from one challenge to the next, buying better weapons and more potions along the way to keep up with the advancing difficulty. It's not as deep a game and can be a bit repetitive, but it also takes away some of the annoyances that Infinity Blade could sometimes get bogged down in, especially once Infinity Blade 3 [$6.99] rolled around. And as a free-to-play game, it's surprisingly fair. Stormblades is an interesting little package for those who want a familiar experience, but streamlined...

Even today, it's rare to see a developer's name affixed to a video game title. There are a lot of reasons for that, depending on which period we look at, but one of the bigger exceptions to that is the name of Sid Meier. I'm not sure how or why his name ended up in the title of Sid Meier's Pirates! [$2.99], but it might have simply been to help make the somewhat generic title more unique. The game was a massive hit, and while publishers generally don't like to canonize developers, they'll make an exception for just about any rule if the money looks right. So it is that after just a few more games, nearly every game Sid Meier had a hand in, and a few that he didn't, carried his name. It's an odd outcome for someone who seems to be a relatively low-key guy. The problem with his name becoming a brand, however, is that you can't be too sure with any given release just how much of the game is Sid Meier the designer versus Sid Meier the marketing tag...

'Odd Bot Out' Review - One Man's Unique Puzzle Platformer

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March 20th, 2015 11:56 AM EDT by Ben Jarris in 4 stars, Puzzle, Reviews
$1.99 Buy Now

One man, 1000+ design sketches and 1 years round the clock sweat and tears, has produced an intriguing puzzle platformer that's blown me away in terms of ingenuity and uniqueness. You can see why Apple chose to feature the game; the magic comes from the lego style constructions with blocks, characters and other objects. Each level is short and smart, providing just the objects you need to make it to the exit. Blocks and characters can be stuck together or pulled apart, and everything in game can be stacked on top of each other, or stuck to the side of other objects to increase their abilities and usefulness. It makes for varied solutions from fewer objects, requiring true problem solving skills...

'TouchTone' Review - Tricky Puzzles, Touchy Tone

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March 18th, 2015 11:30 PM EDT by Shaun Musgrave in $2.99, 4 stars, Games, iPad Games, iPhone games, Puzzle, Reviews
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It's been a few years since we've seen a new iOS release from Mikengreg, the developers behind the hit Solipskier [$0.99]. Mike Boxleiter and Greg Wohlwend gave the label a bit of a rest while they worked on other things after Gasketball [Free (HD)] didn't catch on quite the way they'd hoped. Notably, Wolhwend ended up teaming up with Asher Vollmer to create Puzzlejuice [$1.99] and Threes! [$1.99], both excellent puzzle games with strong visual designs. Well, the band is back together again, and perhaps somewhat informed by their experiences had apart. TouchTone [$2.99] is a striking puzzle game, the sort of thing we've come to expect from Wohlwend's recent projects, but it's also a compelling politically-charged statement on modern America, something both Boxleiter and Wohlwend have strong ideas about. While these two sides of the game don't blend together as well as I might like them to, they're individually strong enough that if you're only coming to the game for one, you'll likely find the other to be quite enjoyable...

Rop [$0.99] has a bit of an odd name. Without the accent over the o, it may seem like "rahp" instead of "rope," which is the theme of this game. It's a puzzle game where a bunch of ropes are strung together, and your goal is to rearrange the different linked points into a shape matching what is given, all on a hexagonal grid. Yep folks, this is a casual minimalist puzzle game that's also a real game. 2015, we did it! I can tell you whether you will enjoy Rop or not through the answer to one simple question: do you get satisfaction when you get a massive mess of cords untangled? If so, every time you solve a puzzle here, you will feel pretty good...

Gameloft’s Dungeon Hunter dungeon crawler series has seen a lot of changes over the years, and that theme continues with this year’s release of Dungeon Hunter 5 [Free]. Yes, the hack n’ slash series continues its march into freemium territory, but this time it does so with a system that’s pretty fair to its players. It actually leads to a game that’s not only pretty enjoyable (within the confines of its systems) but has the potential for long term investment...

Balancing a tower defense title properly is a pretty tough task. Make a game too easy and players may lose interest in advancing through the game’s missions and difficulty. On the other hand, an incredibly difficult TD title can potentially alienate a lot of prospective players. Epic War TD 2 [$2.99] by AMT Games leans heavily on the difficult side in terms of the TD spectrum. However, the game is balanced well enough that most TD gamers can succeed while optional modes provide a challenge for the hardcore fans...

'Miner Z' Review - Mr. Zombie Driller

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I can't get enough of mining games. Although there are a decent amount of them out in the world, I feel like we still need more. The thrill of digging down deep into the depths of the unknown is unparalleled, and incredibly addictive. Miner Z [Free] might be a more arcade-like experience akin to an endless runner, but it still gets the job done...

Ever since we first caught wind of it back in February, Sick Bricks  [Free] by Spin Master has been an intriguing title to play. A lot of the individual elements have been seen before in countless games before it. However, as a compilation, we’ve never quite seen a title combine all of those elements with a real-world toy buying campaign. Granted, it’s not quite the perfect melding of real and digital world assets that I’d like. However, Sick Bricks is still a pretty fun game and should do quite well with its intended audience...

If you're an iPad owner, into strategy games, and are a history buff, the mere mention of Slitherine's name is probably enough to get your blood pumping. Simply put, they consistently release some of the finest strategy games on iOS. Their games tend to be on the upper end of the App Store price range, but it's a genuine case of getting what you pay for. Each game is typically packed with content, extremely well-designed, and rounded out with a full set of features. Another well-known name in iOS strategy circles is Hunted Cow Studios, who are also nothing if not reliable. For years, their niche was in regularly releasing low-priced games covering a variety of interesting settings. The mechanics of those games rarely held any surprises, but they filled the belly without emptying the wallet. These two major forces in the iOS strategy game scene have come together with the release of Hell: Fight For Gilrand [$9.99 (HD)], an iPad-only release...

Nitrome is a company with a very fascinating output, as they have roots as a Flash game company with a particular pixel art style, and Flash games have always felt to me like they straddle a line between being casual-friendly but also maintaining that appeal to core, dyed-in-the-wool gamers. As such, their mobile games definitely have that casual feel while still being ones that core gamers should enjoy as 'real games'. And Magic Touch - Wizard for Hire [Free] is perhaps their best effort at being casual yet gamer-friendly. It's got touch-friendly controls, but very quickly ramps up into an incredible challenge to face down...

There's an inherent joy in playing around with physics. In life, some of our earliest interactions with the external world involve playing around with physics to get a feel for the rules of reality. Even as fully-grown, educated, theoretically wise adults, we still get the urge to use our coffee spoon to launch the creamer at the person sitting at the table on the other side of the restaurant, just to see if we could. For a long time, games weren't terribly good at recreating satisfying physics along with all the other bits we tend to want in a game. There just wasn't enough computing power, time, or resources in general, and it wasn't a high priority. I maintain to this day that the reason Sonic The Hedgehog hit as powerfully as it did was due more to its solid physics engine than anything else. Any old character can go fast, but Sonic not only made us work for it, but also let us see the consequences of that speed. It wouldn't be until several years later that putting realistic physics into a game became a popular thing to do, but once it did, it broke things wide open...

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Swap Heroes [$0.99] was a solid game that combined a strategic quick-play focus with plenty of RPG elements. Swap Heroes 2 [$2.99] does pretty much the same thing - it's the same gameplay, where one hero dying means game over. There are a new set of heroes with new abilities to use, but largely balanced in similar ways. The changes here are structural, and that's not a knock on Swap Heroes 2: it's kind of like when a band releases an album a year after their previous one. It's not a huge jump, but you can often tell where refinements and improvements exist, and Swap Heroes 2 is just a better game...

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