10 New App Store Games To Watch [December 31 - January 6]

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Christmas is over, both seasonally and in terms of the deluge of first rate titles hitting the App Store.  There were still quite a few new games worth noting, however, including the cute infinite rafter Catch The Ark released by Chillingo.  In addition to dodging rocks and various aggressive creatures you’ll need to be wary of the Ark dropping depth charges at you.  The folks behind the Reckless Racing games are back with Repulze, a futuristic racer that looks more “standard” than their previous efforts.  That doesn’t mean it won’t have the “wild and crazy” flair of their other games, however, and they are already working on a couple of content packs that sound interesting.  Adventure game fans should check out Spooky Manor, the latest effort from the developers at Digi-chain.  While probably more Scooby Doo that Forever Lost in atmosphere, past experience says there will be plenty of puzzles to solve.

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Bucket Balls – This is an interesting little physics game about getting the right colored balls in the right colored baskets, all under the given time limit.  Like so many of these games you drag in the direction you want the ball to travel, and the longer the arrow the more power behind the “toss”.  One cool thing about this game, however, is that you can “catch” the ball in the middle of a throw and launch it again, rather than waiting for it to come to rest.  In fact, you’ll often have to do that to win a level.  There are various treasures strewn throughout the levels, and while you can move on simply by getting all the balls in the baskets, you can only earn three stars by recovering all the treasures.  Along the way you’ll run into plenty of obstacles like teleports, gates that must be opened and closed with buttons, and bombs that explode on contact and temporarily take the ball that hit it with.  Then there are the permanent death obstacles like spikes.  The down side is that you only get 12 levels for free and have to pay 99 cents each for the remain two 12 level sets.  It’s a bit steep given what you can get for 99 cents total in other games, but I’d recommend at least giving the free levels a shot.

Bucket Balls Hiworld Mobile Team, Bucket Balls – Free

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Swarm! – One of the selling points the developer used in his PR material was that an early reviewer likened the game to Super Monkey Ball.  Being a fan of that game I was naturally intrigued, but it wasn’t until I got my hands on the iOS version that I could kind of feel the kinship (I originally played this as a web app).  The game definitely stands on its own, though, as the character you start out with is a yell ball with an attitude that likes to put the smackdown on overbearing robotic cops.  The big similarity to SMB comes in the tilt control – the more you tilt the faster your hero goes.  You’ll traverse 20 levels in either story or quick play mode, kicking tail and not taking names.  From what I’ve played so far the levels seem to be a pretty good size, and there are actually three different trophies to earn for each level – 1 for getting all the coins, another for beating the clock and a third for doing both simultaneously.  This should keep all those busy that are looking for a challenge.  The graphics are pretty slick, and the atmosphere is frantic and sometimes silly.  It is an iPad only offering at the moment, with no mention of an iPhone version in the works.

SWARM! E4 Software, SWARM! – $1.99

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Virton – At first glance this seems like a pretty run of the mill tower defense game.  There are four tower types, each of which can be upgraded twice.  So far I’ve only seen one “level” to the game, though that could just be because I can’t beat all the waves on that level.  You place and upgrade towers with the money that rolls in as you defeat the bad guys, and hope that you can destroy them all before they get to the end of the path and take up all your lives.  The graphics are even pretty simplistic.  What makes this game cool is that as you’re laying and upgrading towers you’re actually building the soundtrack.  The basic music gets more complex as you progress through the waves of enemies, but each of the towers represents a different percussion sample that adds to the beat every time it fires.  It’s actually a pretty cool concept that takes a fairly ordinary tower defense game and makes it into something worth playing.

Virton KELEVRA, S.L., Virton – Free

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Spirit Fencer Arena – I know, these match 3 / RPG hybrids are getting to be a dime a dozen like so many other game types.  Still, from the time I’ve spent with this one so far I’m really enjoying it.  Instead of the typical “swap two blocks to make a match” mechanic this game employs, there’s the “swipe up to three of a kind” option to make a match.  Or if you just want to get rid of some blocks you can swipe three of any kind.  Or just tap a single block for less power.  Even better, swipe two blocks of the same kind that aren’t next to each other to make a match.  Defeated enemies give you skill points that can be used to unlock and upgrade cool offensive and defensive spells which get powered up by your matches.  You’ll also earn money that can be used to buy new equipment or upgrade what you already have, though gold doesn’t accumulate nearly as quickly as skill points.  When you want to take a break from the campaign you can test your fighting prowess against real players online, though I have as yet to find anyone to play against.  I really need to start getting some Game Center friends that play the same games I do.  At least it appears that you get to fight with the character you’ve been building up, which hopefully also means victory against other players will net you more money and skill points to use.

Spirit Fencer Arena - Fight monsters and warriors and play for free against other users in this new adventure Yubi Games, Spirit Fencer Arena - Free

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Sixmaster – I haven’t quite gotten the hang of this one yet, but I think when I do it’s going to be pretty cool.  The game takes place on a board filled with hexagons, and the goal is to either take over the board or keep your opponent from being able to move their master piece.  There are only three types of pieces in the game, but what makes up for this lack of variety is the constantly changing playing field.  You can only play on hexagons of your own color, and as you move around the board the area of spaces that retains your color shifts with you.  To add to the challenge there are only four spots on the board where you can bring new pieces into play.  Loose control of those spots and you might as well surrender.  There are single and two player options, a couple of different game play modes and three AI difficulty levels, but you’ll have to pay a small IAP cost for the advanced difficulties.  This is an iPad only offering, but it seems lightweight enough that it should run on all generations of the iOS tablet.

Sixmaster Jan Hornik, Sixmaster – Free

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LILAM – Life Is Light And Murk – LILAM is like a side scrolling labyrinth platformer.  Instead of the typical tilt control that you might expect it employs left, right and jump buttons to help you move your ball through the twisting mazes.  The game is light based, and you are the light.  As you roll around you diminish the light inside of you, but it can be replenished by entering “points of comfort” scattered throughout the levels.  If you linger too long in the darkness you’ll have to start back at the beginning of the maze, but at least you’ll keep any of the gems you’ve collected along the way.  Worse yet, certain areas seem to suck the light right out of you.  The graphics are slick and simplistic, relying more on light than details to make an impact.  The music is nicely written and very moody.  LILAM is universal and runs nicely on my iPad 2, though I’ve pretty much given up trying games on my iPod Touch 4 unless I have to.

LILAM - Life Is Light And Murk MyCrazyApps, LILAM – Life Is Light And Murk – Free

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FreeBuildWarfare – I haven’t had the chance to try this one yet, and since I’m not the biggest FPS fan I’m not real eager to take the plunge yet.  As far as I know, though, this is the first of its kind on the App Store.  It’s a multiplayer FPS game where you actually get to build your own base!  Sort of like Halo meets Minecraft but without the awesome high end 3D graphics of Halo or the cool pixilated graphics of Minecraft.  Still, the game has potential, especially if you’re good at making the kills.  The more people you take down, the more money you get to spend on your fortress.  Hopefully in addition to walls and other menial structures you have the chance to put up more destructive defenses.  The description is not real clear on the game modes, but it appears that you can play on teams or do a one on one duel with the guy that ticks you off in the chat room.  Upcoming features include additional maps, building blocks and weapons, as well as airstrikes.  Now who doesn’t want that?  I am a bit disappointed that this is an iPhone / iPod only offering, but maybe if it gets popular enough we’ll be treated to an iPad native option.

FreeBuildWarfare Philliam Apps, FreeBuildWarfare – Free

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LEGO Hero Factory Brain Attack – I’m a huge fan of the LEGO property, except my interest comes from a time when a kit had 100 pieces and you had to use your imagination to build lots of cool things, instead of the 10 piece prefab stuff they have today.  Still, I like to check out the new LEGO games as they come out, though sadly they haven’t been too impressive up to this point.  Brain Attack is actually pretty decent.  You control one character and get the help of an AI controlled sidekick to help clean up the streets of Makuhero City.  Apparently what you are fighting are brains, but if you ask me they look kind of like rejects from a Ridley Scott sci-fi movie.  Still, the visuals are pretty decent overall.  Game play consists of running around, picking up power ups and blowing away everything in sight.  In other words your typical dual stick shooter, other than the fact that in this case you fire in the same direction you’re facing, and the fire button really just controls when you fire, and not where you fire.  I think that’s the biggest thing I’d like to see them change; just make this a straight dual stick shooter.  There’s nothing new here, but it’s entertaining and it’s free, and you get to see the characters break dance in the selection menu.

LEGO® Hero Factory Brain Attack Amuzo Games, LEGO Hero Factory Brain Attack – Free

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Find in the Mirror – I don’t really like “spot the difference” style game play, and in fact tend to despise when developers toss one or two of these mini-games into something like a hidden object adventure.  This one intrigued me, however, due to a couple of features that I believe are distinct to this variation on the theme.  The biggest challenge is that the two images are mirrored copies of each other.  The other thing that Find in the Mirror introduces is animation in the pictures.  As I expected, these new features make this kind of thing even more complicated for my brain, but for those of you that like this sort of thing but are bored with the “same old stuff”, this should provide the challenge you’ve been craving.  There are 60 levels with 10 differences per level, and some sort of bonus if you complete the game.  Since I can’t get past level one, I’ll wait for someone to tell me what that bonus is.  The game is iPad only and there is a free version with three levels if you want to try before you buy.

Find in the Mirror Crismatica Consulting, Find in the Mirror – $1.99

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Pen the Penguin – I was actually a bit put off by this one at first because I couldn’t get it to do anything and assumed the developers had released a broken game on the App Store.  Once I read a couple App Store reviews and learned how to actually get the game to respond to my wishes, it turns out that Pen the Penguin is pretty entertaining.  It’s one of those games where you have to block off your opponent (in this case a penguin) such that they eventually can’t make any moves.  There are a couple of features in this variation of the formula that actually stick out in a positive way to me.  The boards are randomly generated, and while sometimes it’s neat to see the clever designs developers come up with for levels in this sort of game, random generation means infinite replayability.  The barriers you place are temporary, so you have to be a little more strategic than just trying to drop one on every open tile.  You can also pick up power ups along the way which can give you a nice advantage.  It would be great if the developers would fix the control scheme so you can simply tap per the instructions instead of having to hold for a bit to do things, but otherwise this is a nice version of a classic game.

Pen The Penguin HuTerra,  Pen The Penguin – Free

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.

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