Games To Make Your New Year Bright [December 17 - 30]

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Hope you all had a happy New Year.  Since Christmas obligations kept me from writing a roundup last week I thought I’d do my best to give you a double dose of gaming goodness this week.  After being relatively quiet for a while Digital Chocolate is back with what looks to be a real time strategy game called Army Attack.  It’s free with IAP options, and it also requires an internet connection in order to be able to play.  Stone Blade Entertainment released SolForge, a demo of a new trading card game coming from the creators of Magic The Gathering.  The current offering is an offline pass and play experience only, but given the pedigree I would expect some pretty good things to come.  And of course you should check out the extras at the bottom of this post.  Now on to the main attraction…

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Lost Treasures Of Infocom – Okay, I’m sure all of you young gamers are looking at this collection and going “why would I want to play something without graphics?”  Well, there may be no visuals to be found here, but what you will find is some of the best adventure games to grace a computer screen… ever.  Just as Sierra Online ruled the point and click realm, Infocom was the king of the text adventure, and this collection starts you out with the best of the best, Zork I.  From there you can buy packs of additional games or splurge for the whole collection and receive the bonus game Zork: The Undiscovered Underground.  In addition to delving into some classic moments of gaming you’ll get some slick extras including reproductions of the original hint books, simulated packaging so you can witness the days when people actually went to the store to buy software, and virtual representations of all the goodies that Infocom used to throw into those physical packages.  Old timers will slip into a state of nirvana that they might not recover from, while newer gamers will finally get to understand why previous generations got into gaming in the first place.  Either way you can’t loose with this pantheon of gaming goodness.

Lost Treasures of Infocom Activision Publishing, Lost Treasures of Infocom – Free

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Final Fantasy IV – I know I usually try to leave the “big name” titles to the millions of other news outlets that have already covered them, but to me it seemed like even the headliners for the past couple of weeks got overshadowed by a silly little thing called Christmas.  Anyway, there’s no question that Square Enix can hold its own no matter what it does, but it certainly doesn’t hurt that it has the iconic RPG series Final Fantasy to call its own.  The fourth installment of this venerable franchise is now available with slick new visuals, revamped events and voice enhanced cinematic sequences.  This particular tale introduced the concept of Active Time Battle to combat, as well as providing the Augment system which enables the transfer of abilities from one character to another.  You can also watch the characters grow and change emotionally, which is something most RPGs don’t offer.  The mapping system literally starts you from square one in each dungeon to add an air of mystery to the proceedings, and the jukebox lets you play the game’s music whenever you want.  Overall this is a nice package for veteran Final Fantasy players and for newcomers to the series.

FINAL FANTASY IV SQUARE ENIX, FINAL FANTASY IV – $15.99

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Karateka – The remakes continue with this classic from 1984.  While you may not be familiar with the title there’s little doubt you’ll recognize its successor, Prince Of Persia.  Karateka was a simple combat game with a basic premise – rescue the imprisoned princess.  Sound familiar?  Unlike the more popular spiritual successor there are no complex, multi-level passages to navigate here.  There are a few environmental hazards to dodge, but the crux of the game centers around fighting.  They’ve added a rhythm based element to the combat, so I’m curious to see how that plays out.  If we’re lucky they’ve also added a save system, as this feature was sorely lacking in the original, which was fairly common back in the day.  The visuals come from one of the artists of The Batman, and the music is composed by a Civilization IV alum, so we should be in for an aesthetic tour de force.  The down side – if you look at it that way – to all of this is that you need an iPad 2+ or iPhone 4S+ to enjoy this remastered work.  And yes, the hawk is back for your punching pleasure.

Karateka Karateka LLC, Karateka – $2.99

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Ronin – Yeah, this is another 2D side scrolling infinite runner.  In all honesty, I’m not even really sure it brings anything new to the table.  There are power ups to unlock and in some cases upgrade, but that’s been done before.  This game’s “fuel” is wisps that you’ll collect in order to power up your active ability.  You’ll run, jump and slide to get around, and swipe forward to unleash your sword on the enemy.  One thing I do like is the fact that different enemies have to be attacked in different ways.  For instance, the only place to kill an ogre is in the head.  A little more variation might be nice, but with the limited moves available that might not be possible.  The feudal Japanese setting is nice, and the artwork is quite interesting.  They also did a really good job with the background music.  Despite the lack of revolutionary – or even evolutionary – features I’ve found myself getting quite addicted to this game.  Fans of the genre should enjoy this solid effort, though newcomers might find it a bit daunting when it comes to earning enough skill points to upgrade or collecting the right number of wisps to actually use your special skill.

Rōnin Emmanuel MONNEREAU, Rōnin – $0.99

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Ravensword: Shadowlands – So what should one expect from the sequel to one of the most highly acclaimed action / RPGs on iOS systems?  Why, nothing less than bigger and better, of course.  From the sounds of it, that’s exactly what Crescent Moon Games has delivered with Shadowlands.  Ravensword offers more than 40 hours of game play between the main quest and multiple side ventures, including decision based multi-part affairs.  You’ll be able to mount up on horses and flying steeds, as well as exercise useful skills like lock picking and pickpocketing.  From the sounds of it you might even get to spend some time in jail.  There are plenty of creatures to fight and an enormous 3D world to explore from both a first and third person perspective.  Game Center achievements and iCloud support round out the impressive list of features.  Basically, it sounds like everything you’d want from a mobile RPG.  And with Crescent Moon at the helm you can expect top notch visuals, though owners of devices such as an iPad 1 or iPod Touch 4 will be out of luck for this journey.

Ravensword: Shadowlands Crescent Moon Games, Ravensword: Shadowlands – $6.99

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Detective Dogs – Sleuthing has gone to the dogs in this new match 3 game.  I believe the free version came out a couple of weeks ago, but now that the full version is available I thought I’d share it with you.  There’s an endless mode for all those that just like a good old fashioned match 3 experience, but this mode is kind of bland in Detective Dogs.  The game shines in story mode where there are a bunch of chapters, each with some sort of objective.  The overall goal of the chapter is to get a dog from the left to the right side of the screen, but this might require you to uncover a particular clue in a certain area or maybe to remove all the squares from the board to reveal a big clue.  You might even have to match certain squares that contain special items you need to retrieve.  Whatever the case each chapter is timed (albeit rather generously) and if you’re not careful you might find yourself doing it over again.  The cut scenes are well drawn and the story has a Disney-esque cheesiness about it.  This isn’t necessarily the cream of the crop for match 3 games, but it has certainly held my attention.

Detective Dogs Kandarp Patel, Detective Dogs – $0.99

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Roaming Fortress – So when does tower defense not feel like tower defense?  When it takes place atop a creature that looks somewhat like a dewback reject.  Goblin hordes have ravaged your once peaceful kingdom, and now all you have left to try and take it back is a huge beast of burden that can carry towers full of soldiers.  The game feels like it’s in between tower defense and castle defense in structure.  It’s more interactive then either of these genres generally is, however, because you actually have to do the attacking yourself.  It’s great for those that are intrigued by tower defense but have always felt it was a bit too passive.  The initial download is free and comes with 12 levels, 15 troops to choose from and 14 enemy types.  You can purchase an expansion pack via IAP that doubles the content, and there are 4 more expansion packs planned for future release.  The game is currently iPad only and doesn’t support the original iPad (yet).

Roaming Fortress Brisk Mobile, Roaming Fortress – Free

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Last Knight HD – While Ravensword: Shadowlands was clearly a fan favorite this holiday season, many gamers might not have realized that Crescent Moon Games released another game over this two week period.  Last Knight HD is an infinite runner that takes you back to medieval times and one-ups One Epic Knight because it gives you a horse to ride on.  You also get a lance to protect yourself with and to knock down trees that are in your way or might make for nice bridges.  Some of the creatures that require lancing are passive, but others will take the challenge and force you to hone your jousting skills so you end up the victor instead of lying on the ground.  There’s an endless mode that’s great for racking up some gold, and then there’s the story mode which can be amusing and brings a nice level based option to the game.  Either way you earn money to unlock power ups which can help you on your journey.  Visually the game is probably one of the most stunning infinite runners available, but that’s not a big surprise.  About the only thing I could do without is the rag doll physics, but otherwise it’s been a blast to play so far.

Last Knight HD Crescent Moon Games, Last Knight HD – $0.99

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Mazes and Monsters – I have many fond memories about my original NES, but the game that comes to mind first and foremost is Legend Of Zelda.  There’s no question that the developers of Mazes and Monsters were fans of this game as well.  From the characteristic sloped overhead perspective to slicing bushes with your sword, this game feels like a wholehearted attempt at bringing the Hyrule experience to iOS devices.  I haven’t been able to spend a whole lot of time with it so far, but from what I have played I think it’s done a pretty decent job at emulating its inspiration.  There are plenty of monsters to fight, traps to evade and puzzles to solve.  There are even a couple of mini games involving bows and fishing poles to keep you occupied in the main town.  Anyone that likes nice 2D action / adventure games should enjoy this one, but fans of the older Zelda games will find this one especially intriguing.

Mazes and Monsters ashley jackson, Mazes and Monsters – $0.99

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SixthSense : All new 3D sound horror shooting game – Forget Minigore or CoD: Zombies or any of these other undead shooting fests.  If you really want to test your mettle as an expert shooter of walkers you need to check out SixthSense.  All you get visually in this game is a static backdrop.  You’ll hear the zombies coming towards you and then you’ll need to swap in the direction you think they are coming from.  If you can shoot them while they are in between moans you’ll score a head shot as well.  This is definitely the kind of game you’ll want to play in a quiet area, and you’ll also need a pair of headphones.  I did pretty bad the couple of times I’ve played so far, which I’m sure is because of my cheap $5 headphones and not because I’m simply no good at the game, but it’s certainly different than all the other zombie fare you’ll find on the App Store.

SixthSense : All new 3D sound horror shooting game TeamHN, SixthSense : All new 3D sound horror shooting game – Free

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Pudding Monsters – While it may not have had quite the impact that Angry Birds did, there’s no question that Cut The Rope influenced the way developers make physics based puzzle games.  Zepto Labs is back with Pudding Monsters, and while it’s thankfully a completely different style of game it still exudes the same fun atmosphere and challenging puzzles that made Cut The Rope a great game.  It’s based on the type of game where you slide objects around a board that can only stop when they run into something else.  In this case, though, if the creatures run into each other they merge and you can slide the whole group as one.  The beat a level you must merge all the creatures, but to truly win the level you must cover each of the three star tiles scattered around the board.  As you progress through the game you get creatures with different skill sets as well as environmental challenges like ice that breaks the first time you collide with it.  There are currently 75 levels to challenge your brain cells and more on the way.  The only down side right now is that in order to play natively on all devices you need two separate versions.

Pudding Monsters ZeptoLab UK, Pudding Monsters – $0.99
Pudding Monsters HD ZeptoLab UK, Pudding Monsters HD – $0.99

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MMORPG Project – Given the premise behind this game it seems like it’s more for the younger set.  The backdrop is a school where all the authorities have disappeared, and it’s up to you to help maintain order (or bring about a bit of chaos).  Thanks to the sandbox type design you’re welcome to roam the halls freely, but there are quests to take on as well.  As an interesting twist it appears that you as the user can create your own quests using the same piece of software you play the game with.  There are also typical RPG things like weapons to find and upgrade and people to crush.  I’m not quite sure where they are trying to go with this game, but the lack of a fantasy or sci-fi setting has me curious to find out.  I’ve never been a big fan of MMORPGs, but there’s something about this particular one that makes me feel like it’s one to watch.

MMORPG Project VNL Entertainment, MMORPG Project – Free

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Vancity Dash – Ever thought you should take up running but then realize that you had no desire to actually exercise?  What if you could make a game out of it?  That’s exactly what Vancity Dash does, at least for the fine folks in Vancouver.  In conjunction with your GPS this will turn your run time into a retro experience full of coin collecting, power ups and more.  As you collect coins you’ll be able to unlock landmarks on your map which in turn make more power ups available to you… and the circle goes on and on.  Anyone can unlock coins as long as you have the app and your GPS is enabled, but only inhabitants of Vancouver have the benefit of power ups and landmarks right now.  It’s a shame that the initial scope of the application is so limited geographically, but hopefully that will change over time.  It is nice to see GPS based games moving beyond the typical monster collection or player vs. player domination that we’ve seen in recent months, though.

Vancity Dash Leaping Coyote Interactive, Vancity Dash – Free

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Paper Galaxy – In Paper Galaxy you control a moon with a cold that’s trying to get away from a giant Crab Nubula.  Along the way you’ll run into all kinds of silly planets with hearty laughs and goofy expressions.  On the surface it seems like a kids’ game, but it’s actually quite fun.  A simple tap of the finger lets you jump from one planet to the next, and a tap while soaring through space lets you jump over planets and gain some momentum, assuming you have any super sneezes to spare.  There are more than 120 different upgrades to earn and 100+ goals to achieve.  Game Center provides leaderboards as well, and it will even mark special planets in your game to designate your friends’ longest travelling distance for those that are ultra competitive.  If you’ve unlocked Frolic mode and tire of running from the crab you can always play this secondary mode where your only real enemy is a nasty timer.  There are certainly a number of games on the App Store with the same basic game mechanics as Paper Galaxy, but between the cute atmosphere and several slight bonuses in game play, this is certainly one of the best of its kind.

Paper Galaxy Liquid Entertainment., Paper Galaxy – $1.99

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Pictago – The hidden object style of adventure game is quite popular among casual gamers, and I’m sure that many players have wondered what it would be like to create their own game.  Pictago might just give you a taste of what that would be like.  Pick a photo from your library, shoot a new picture with your camera or raid your Facebook albums for just the right image to use.  Select and tag portions of the image with the app’s easy to use editor to create a list of items for your friends to search on.  Invite your friends to take your challenge through Facebook, Twitter or email and see who can dissect whose photos first.  You can search for objects either one at a time or via a list depending on your playing preference.  This certainly won’t be putting Big Fish Games out of business any time soon, but it does provide users with something that even the best Big Fish games don’t: a multiplayer social experience.  The game is free too, so grab a copy and start showing off your object finding skills today.

Pictago indiePub, Pictago – Free

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Zombie Master – Much like SixthSense, Zombie Master is unique among the iOS zombie slaying offerings.  You will have sections where you go it alone against the undead, taking out as many as you can from a third person perspective before it’s time to flee.  On the other hand, some of these segments also have you working with a team of AI controlled troops, which is actually pretty cool.  Then there are the missions where you get to fire on the undead crowds from the comfort of an airborne helicopter.  Of course this one be as easy as it sounds, because the rotting corpses seem to have liberated some heavy machinery and will be firing back at you.  As you conquer each section you’ll also have to build it up time management style to get the resources you need to further your cause.  It’s a rather interesting combination of game play elements, and from what little I’ve been able to play so far it seems to blend together quite well.  I’m happy to see developers thinking outside the box when it comes to zombie games, because while I’m a fan of the concept as a whole, many of them were really starting to feel too similar to each other.

Zombie Master alphaCloud Inc., Zombie Master – Free

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Penny Arcade The Game: Gamers vs. Evil – I don’t know much about Penny Arcade, but as a geek and a gamer (no, they aren’t the same thing) I feel like I probably should check it out one of these days.  In the mean time I’ve noted that there are a few iOS games based off of the property, and this is the latest one.  It’s a digital CCG that you can play against your friends or the computer.  If you choose the human element you can play on-line or pass and play on the same device.  What I find interesting is that it supports up to four players, which I think is pretty unusual for customizable card games.  You can rematch opponents that have beaten you, juggle multiple online games at the same time, and keep several different save games so more than one family member can use the same install.  And I’m guessing since this is based off of a web comic that there should be a pretty good dose of humor strewn throughout the game as well.  It also has all the standard iOS goodies like universal binary support and Game Center integration.  One thing I didn’t see mentioned was iCloud support, which given the nature of the game would seem quite useful.

Penny Arcade The Game: Gamers vs. Evil Playdek, Penny Arcade The Game: Gamers vs. Evil – $4.99

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Anomaly Korea – I have the original but never got the chance to play it.  After spending a few minutes with the second installment of the Anomaly series I’m beginning to think I should have made the time to play part 1.  If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be the caravan being fired upon in a tower defense game, here’s your chance to find out.  The machines have taken over, and it’s your job to lead a convoy of humans to safety amidst all the destruction that’s going on.  You’ll set your path via an overhead map, then use simple touch controls to activate power ups to help your comrades get through the turmoil relatively unscathed.  Rearrange your convoy at any time to put the strongest up front and protect the weak.  The visuals have a unique look for this style of game play, and fully voiced dialog really immerses you in the game play.  Even if you’re not a fan of tower defense style game play, this one might be worth your while to try.

Anomaly Korea Chillingo, Anomaly Korea – $2.99

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Click The Bolt! – I know there are a lot of puzzle games on the App Store already, but as long as a new one offers something different I’m willing to give it a try.  Click The Bolt has aliens and candy, but it’s definitely not a clone of Cut The Rope.  The main mechanic in the game is the ability to add and remove bolts to planks found throughout each level.  Sometimes this means simply creating a sloped platform or using the platform as a bat to knock the alien to another part of the screen.  In other cases a plank might have two bolts in it and you actually need to “walk” it down a portion of the level.  The developer has done a good job making creative use of the bolt concept.  There are currently 50 levels across 10 different planets and hopefully more planets will be added if the developer gets good feedback.  It would be nice if you didn’t have to get all three candies on each level to progress to the next world, but for free I’m willing to struggle through that limitation for now.  Of course you can buy hints that will show you how to solve the levels, but what’s the fun of that?

Click the Bolt! A10.com, Click the Bolt! – Free

I’m going to stop this roundup one entry short of 20 and just wrap it up by saying what a great year 2012 was for gaming.  While I might not have made the perfect call on every game I mentioned over the past year, I think I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping you informed about the variety of quality iOS games that exist on the App Store, and hopefully you agree.  Here’s hoping that 2013 is an even better year for all of us veteran gamers and for the new folks that are sure to join the Apple fold throughout the year.

That was just 10 of the many new releases this past week. Here are several more notable titles you may find of interest:

Well that wraps up another week of games to watch on the App Store. As always, if there’s something you’ve played from the past week that you feel should be part of this list, please leave a reply to this post.

Previous weekly installments of our New App Store Games Roundup:

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