Category Archives: 4 stars

It’s hard to turn any corner in the app store without bumping into a match three game clad in plate mail, wielding a sword, slinging some spells and grinding experience these days. Block Legend [$1.99], 1000000 [$2.99], Hero Emblems [$3.99], Dungeon Raid [$1.99], and even Puzzle Quest 2 [$2.99] back in the day. It’s hard to stand out in this genre, but shockingly, each of the games I listed is very different from the next, and there is a crazy amount of flexibility and variety in what you’d call a match three RPG. Guardian Sword [$2.99] from Picsoft doesn’t look like much at a glance, but under the surface lies a deep and strategic experience worth checking out...

Don't judge a book by its cover, or a game by its title, they say, and in this case, they are correct because even though Wars and Battles: October War 1973 [$6.99 (HD)] might win the award for the most self-evident and slightly uninteresting title ever, the game hiding underneath that title is an interesting strategy game that covers a conflict rarely visited by wargames. ..

TinyBuild's Divide by Sheep [$2.99] is a game that I first saw back at PAX South, and it left an indelible mark on me. This was thanks not just to its cute-yet-macabre theme, but also because its puzzles were clever, and did a lot to add joy to what is otherwise a casual-friendly math puzzler. Not that there's anything wrong with being a casual-friendly game, but it's tough for those games to stand out. I do wonder just how much Divide by Sheep suffers for trying to be a game for gamers, though: it feels like it sits in this odd middle ground between being a game that's a casual-friendly math puzzler, but with a deceptive theme. And I worry too many people will see the sheep and bright colors and maybe pass this fun game over. Though, if you're reading this, you should not, it's fun...

'The Mesh' Review - I Believe In Numerals, You Hexy Thing

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July 23rd, 2015 2:45 PM EDT by Nathan Reinauer in $1.99, 4 stars, Games, Puzzle, Reviews, Universal
$1.99 Buy Now

In The Mesh [$1.99] by Creatiu Lab you play as a mad king who believes he rules over an ever-changing land of whole numbers. In the middle of the game board is a white tile which represents the most ideal House, and your goal as ruler is to combine the number tiles to the North and South so they add up to the white one. If you fail, the remaining numbers will revolt and destroy sections of your kingdom, bringing you and your people ever closer to a gruesome demise...

Illusion Labs is easily one of my very favorite developers, with their trademark colorfully cute 3D visuals and long tradition of taking familiar genres and mixing them up with clever controls and unique gameplay mechanics. Sway [$4.99] was among the first games I ever bought on my iPhone, and I’d argue that Touchgrind Skate 2 [$4.99] is one of the best skateboarding games on any platform. Even their dinky little kart racer Rocket Cars [Free] stole my heart recently, and it’s one of the few free-to-play games that I actually 100%’d...

Old genres rarely die, they just often end up evolving into something a bit different. That's certainly the case with beat-em-ups, a genre which reached its height in the 16-bit era only to almost completely vanish in the following generation. That happened for many reasons, including market saturation, the popularity of one-on-one fighters eating the genre's lunch, an overall lack of innovation, and the 3D nature of the gameplay meaning it got precious little boost from the shift into polygons the way other genres did. A few attempts were made to keep the genre going on PlayStation and its contemporaries, but they met with limited success at best. It wouldn't be until the release of the PlayStation 2 that the beat-em-up would find its new footing, thanks to Koei's Dynasty Warriors series. That series spawned many sequels, spin-offs, and imitators, and even today serves as a general template for the genre...

I feel like it's pretty hard for a letter game to distinguish itself at this point in the App Store's life. Much like any long-in-the-tooth genre, new entries are starting to feel far more similar to each other than different. AlphaBear [Free], the latest from Triple Town [Free] developer Spry Fox, looks into the developer's past for inspiration. Panda Poet is a web game that has you making words to create bigger and more numerous pandas than your opponent. It's kind of a word game crossed with Othello, and if I may put on my day job hat for a second here, it's been invaluable as an English study tool for some of the kids I teach. Though it works fine in mobile browsers, it's not available as a native mobile app, and you really do need two human players to get the most out of it. In short, there's room to grow the concept, and that's sort of what AlphaBear does...

Imagine an MMO RPG where you venture through fantastic worlds with great environment variety, fun enemies, and an entertaining story. I know, this description fits most good MMOs, so now imagine that in this MMO you get to play as one of over a hundred different characters, each with his or her own skills, special moves and powers, and you've got the new LEGO game, Funcom's LEGO Minifigures Online (LMO) [$4.99], the iOS version of the original computer game. The game offers a variety of fun worlds and environments, one included with the game and four more as IAPs, an incredible amount of ridiculous characters to play as, and the usual LEGO gameplay fare of fighting, smashing, and building...

'Dinofour' Review - Craig, Stop Eating Crayons

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July 8th, 2015 8:04 PM EDT by Brittney Broder in 4 stars, Action, Adventure, Platform, Puzzle, Ratings, Retro, Reviews
$1.99 Buy Now

Dinofour [$1.99] is a charming retro-inspired puzzle platformer where the goal is to guide four dinosaurs to their egg at the end of the level. Each of the four dinosaurs has a different color and power to assist you on your quest: red breathes fire, green can move boulders, blue can fly, and purple can manipulate gravity to walk on the ceiling. The game was created by the new indie developer Craigeatscrayons and is the first launch of the Melbourne-based company. As far as first projects go, Dinofour set the bar high with playful yet challenging level design, interesting mechanics, and a vast amount of available content, including 3 worlds, over 70 levels, and secret areas and collectibles...

I don't know about everyone else, but for my money, the best part of using a tomb-raiding setting for a story is when the main character has to escape from a collapsing death-trap. I'm not sure why ancient civilizations would rig things to collapse in such a precise and deadly manner, or how annoying it must have been when they were setting it up and Bob accidentally tripped the whole thing just before the last piece was set, but watching someone try to outrace a series of perfectly-timed traps lest they be buried in the very location they sought to loot never gets old. With the rise of Indiana Jones happening almost in step with the booming popularity of early home gaming, it's not surprising we've seen many interactive takes on the concept. When it's done well, it's just as exhilarating to play as it is to watch. Trappy Tomb [Free] is a relatively simple game that focuses exactly on that kind of escape sequence, and while it has some issues, a few clever ideas help smooth things over...

Is a high level of difficulty a necessary part of a roguelike? It's something I've been thinking about a bit as I've played Alchemic Dungeons [$2.99], the latest from Rogue Ninja [$2.99] developer Q-Cumber Factory. Most genres don't factor challenge into their definitions, but I suppose the roguelike genre isn't like most others. For decades, roguelikes acted something like the horror B-movie of the games industry. There was always a very strong cult following, but outside of certain limited successes in Japan, those outside the circle rarely gave the games much attention. In recent years, things have changed, however, and that has forced a somewhat insular community to reassess exactly what it is that they get out of games using the roguelike descriptor. Alchemic Dungeons checks off all the boxes as a Japanese-style roguelike, but its main gameplay hook gives it a certain fairness that isn't typically present in this genre...

For those that dig on swine, bacon seems to have such a magical allure that people will put it on the craziest things just to enjoy it. Bacon’s mysterious power even translates to the video game world, where even a rooster will do everything within its power to save the world’s bacon supply from being abducted by aliens. If the thought of such a ridiculous premise appeals to you, you’ll enjoy The Abduction of Bacon at Dawn, the Chronicles of a Brave Rooster [$2.99]. It not only hits the mark in terms of theme but it’s a fun little platformer in its own right as well...

Amazon's been bringing over several of their mobile games to iOS now, and Tales from Deep Space [$3.99] is their latest and their best. It took some time to make the leap from the Kindle Fire tablets, unlike Lost Within [$6.99] and Til Morning's Light [$6.99] which launched simultaneously on both Fire OS and iOS. This is a puzzle-platformer where you control two characters, and it's got clever puzzles to play with, though the combat portions tend and clumsy controls do drag the experience down a bit...

Oftentimes, when we look at a game, we focus on its mechanics and how it fits within the parameters of its genre. Has this first-person shooter managed to get the controls right, is this platformer too bouncy, or is this endless runner just too twitchy? Yet, sometimes what makes a game stand out is not so much its mechanics but, rather, its theme, and Slitherine's Warhammer 40K: Armageddon's [$19.99 (HD)] theme raises what would otherwise be a relatively-traditional Panzer Corps re-skin into a pretty good strategy game in its own right. Slitherine uses its strategy gaming expertise along with the fantastic Games Workshop's Warhammer 40K universe to create a game that's so much more fun to play than any WWII game - and this comes from someone who loves WWII and Vietnam strategy games. In Warhammer 40K: Armageddon, Slitherine delivers a strong wargame that acts as a great introduction to the universe for the uninitiated while also being a treat for the Warhammer 40K faithful. However, as I've mentioned in my review of another Slitherine game, Space Program Manager, while the Play by Email (PBEM) probably works well for multiplayer games on the PC, it doesn't take advantage of what the mobile platform has to offer and even hampers the multiplayer side of the game, which should actually be Warhammer 40K: Armageddon's highlight...

FireWhip [$0.99] is a perfect example of a game that shows that you shouldn't just judge a book by its cover, but if the book is good, having a rad cover sure helps! This is a unique high-score chaser that puts work in to feel like a standout experience. FireWhip delivers exactly what it its title promises, as it has you swinging a whip made of flames, trying to fend off enemies that want to get to you. You have to swing the whip around to make it large and fast enough to hit oncoming enemies, but some of the base enemies are cowards – literally, they're called cowards – and will shy away. The enemies that come at you directly? They have shields, come in large numbers, or attack really quickly. And if you swing your whip too fast, it flames out, and that's not going to be any good for you...

The Harmony series knows what it is and is quite comfortable in its skin. That might be one of its better qualities overall. The games use a basic, simple-to-understand mechanic to set up increasingly devious puzzles, trying to wind you up more and more. While the games work hard to frustrate you in that respect, the most relaxing, gorgeous music plays in the background, making it nearly impossible not to chill out. This odd discord makes for a compelling combination of flavors, and each installment simply drops another few scoops on your plate. Harmony 3 [$1.99] follows the pattern to a tee, which makes this an awfully short review if you've played a game in the series before. Did you like it, and want more? Buy this one, you won't be disappointed. Did you dislike it or become tired of its bag of tricks? Then you won't find anything to grab you here...

The App Store is just feeling so nostalgic these days. First we get a sequel to Fragger [$0.99]in Fragger 2 [$1.99] last month, which I also reviewed, and this month we get a sequel to another IP from 4 years ago. That IP is Drop the Chicken. The original can’t be found on the App Store anymore, but thankfully the original developers at AppinTheBox have brought us a sequel that tops it in every way imaginable, bringing Chuck the Chicken into modern times. Drop the Chicken 2 [$0.99]is the name of the game, and it is anything but lame. No, I don’t know why I felt the need to rhyme just now. Jeez, get off my case about it...

There simply aren't enough heist games out there. I would have played at least three licensed Oceans 11 games, but the deals involved in a potential project like that would be an impossible task. Alas, there are a few indies here and there that fill that gap, including Monaco: What's Yours is Mine, one of my recent favorites. Robbery Bob 2: Double Trouble [$2.99] is no Monaco, but it's a pretty fun little sneak-fest...

Since I’m sure you’re all dying to know, my favorite iOS game of all time is Jet Car Stunts [$1.99] by True Axis. The physics are spot-on, the controls are perfect, and the courses are all insanely fun and challenging. So when I heard about Hondune’s Truck Trials 2 [$1.99] in our forums, I pounced. It seemed like the same sort of thing: behind-the-back driving along three dimensional tracks with a focus on precision and speed. After downloading and playing for a while, I can safely say… it’s not the same. I mean, it’s obvious from the screenshots alone that there aren’t many Stunts or Jets (or Cars, for that matter). But it does have the same basic premise of navigating treacherous terrain as quickly as possible, and it’s pretty fun to boot...

The beauty of mobile and this era of digital distribution is that with small games, we can see how games can become wildly different affairs from the same idea. Sure, this is the same system that leads to rampant cloning, but sometimes you see developers legitimately iterate on the same idea. Take Hue Ball [Free], for instance. It credits Wouter Visser's Gimme Friction Baby as its inspiration. This is the same game that inspired Orbital [$2.99 / Free], a classic App Store puzzle game, that both start from the same idea: you launch balls from a bottom cannon into a playing field, trying to break balls in the playing field to earn points, and to keep balls from landing and expanding below the border line where your cannon sits. What Hue Ball does is to tweak the concept just enough to feel like a very different experience, going from a slow, tactical puzzle game where one mistake can doom you, to a fast-paced high-score chaser that's somewhat forgiving...

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