10 New App Store Games To Watch [September 30 - October 6]

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Some people don’t consider iOS devices real gaming platforms, but since I started writing reviews for my iPod Touch and iPad I barely look back at all the other electronics sitting in my house.  The adventure game category is covered when you get first rate releases like The Cave from Ron Gilbert and Double Fine Productions.  The master of Monkey Island brings his wit to spelunking with a cast of crazy characters and plenty of oddball puzzles to solve.  If you prefer your humor a bit drier and tied to the zombie apocalypse then you might want to give Zombie Apocalift a try.  There are still quirky characters, but in this game you have to deal with hordes of undead while trapped in an elevator.  If you just want to indulge in a lighthearted puzzle game you should give Happy Hills 2: Bombs Away! a try.  This sequel has 160 levels, some new ways to get rid of the blocks and an endless arcade mode for when you want to relax your brain a little.

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Level 22 – The concept of a stealth game that was centered around sneaking into work because you’re late sounded kind of geeky and not a lot of fun.  The video told a different story, however, and after playing a couple of levels I’m wondering why this subject hadn’t been breeched before.  You have 22 stories to cover in order to get to your office and you’ll have to use every trick in the book to make it undetected.  Hide in whatever is big enough to hold you and dash across small open spaces before someone actually realizes you’re there.  Find objects you can carry with you and pull out at a moment’s notice to cover your face and keep nosybodies from noticing you.  Slink along the walls and climb through air vents so prying eyes miss your movements.  Sabotage copy machines, add laxatives to co-worker’s drinks and release small amounts of toxic gas all in the name of occupying your adversaries until you’re out of sight.  Along the way you’ll get advice from your best friend, who just happens to be a former co-worker, and you’ll even get the chance to collect his rare collection of action figures he left behind.  And don’t forget to study your surroundings carefully so you can find the code to the safe that’s on each level.  Just remember that you shouldn’t try these things in real life when you’re late!

LEVEL 22 Noego, LEVEL 22 – $3.99

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The Cave – With games like Middle Manager of Justice, Psychonauts and Costume Quest under the belts, there’s no question that Double Fine Productions doesn’t settle for the ordinary.  Toss Ron Gilbert, famed creator of the Monkey Island series, into the mix and this should be a slam dunk for gamers.  The basic premise behind the game is to explore a mysterious cave, but it’s really just as much about understanding the different characters.  I like the fact that even though it’s a puzzle / adventure game you actually get to choose three characters to take with you instead of just get pigeonholed with a preset selection like most adventure games do (yeah, I get the whole “plot” thing, but it’s nice to see someone break the mold every once in a while).  Each character has their own abilities to help you solve various puzzles, and I hope that there will be some puzzles that are unique depending on the existence of certain characters in your party – just don’t hold me to that.  The visuals look pretty slick, and I’m guessing the animation will help augment the humor that undoubtedly clutters the game.  Judging from the couple of mini-spoilers I’ve read you’ll probably have to think outside of the box to solve many of the puzzles, but as long as it’s presented well that’s okay.  It sounds like there might be a couple of control issues, but I’m guessing that everything else the game offers will more than make up for a bit of frustration on that end.

The Cave SEGA, The Cave – $4.99

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Battlepillars – This is one of those side scrolling games where your base is at one end of the field, the opponent’s is at the other, and whoever’s base falls first is the loser.  At face value these games tend to blend together from a mechanics standpoint aside from the occasional standout bonus power or something that one variation might offer.  What I like about this implementation is that you basically have one unit – the caterpillar – and your success all depends on the way you construct each unit you send out.  You’ll have various sections to work with that offer advantages in things like speed, offense and defense, and you’ll only get to take so many segment types with you into each battle.  Play in campaign mode and conquer the garden, or take on endless mode to see how many waves of enemies you can fend off before you die.  You can even play a multi-player mode, which is surprisingly not very common for this style of game.  Take on “gold” challenges like completing a level with only certain segment types and earn bonus rewards.  You can even call upon your critter friends to help out in a pinch.  Good luck, and may the best Battlepillar win.

Battlepillars Hitcents.com, Inc., Battlepillars – Free

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Hamster Rescue Saga – Whack the Pet Hamster Ball – Yeah, this is basically whack-a-mole with hamsters.  The truth is that there have been much better variations on this theme over time.  It’s been a while since I’ve played one that holds my attention, though, and for some reason this one does.  Your job is to smash the hamster balls in order to set the furry little creatures inside free.  Some will require two hits to take care of.  There are also clocks you can smash to get extra time added to your countdown.  Be ware of the bombs, though, as they’ll detract from your counter.  As you level up you’ll unlock new hamsters to free.  That’s basically all there is to the game.  It could certainly use some power ups and maybe a few more negative items to ignore.  Maybe there could even be special non-hamster creatures that do cool things.  Despite the limited design scope, however, this is actually one of the more entertaining games I’ve tried from last week so far.

Hamster Rescue Saga - Whack the Pet Hamster Ball Tapps Tecnologia da Informação Ltda., Hamster Rescue Saga – Whack the Pet Hamster Ball – Free

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Edge Of The World – Edge Of The World takes the concept of shuffleboard and tries to make it appealing to the youthful, non-cruise demographic.  It’s still not going to give you the rush that the latest dual stick shooter or FPS provides, but it actually does a pretty admirable job of making the classic game interesting.  You and your opponent each get four ships, and your job is to get as close to the end of the board as you can without falling off.  You get between 1 and 4 points depending on where your ship lands, or no points if you’re too short or plummet off the edge.  Rounds continue until someone scores 21 points or more.  As you earn money you can buy better ships, different captains and cool power-ups like anchors that keep you from getting knocked around for a round or two or gusts of wind that can propel you closer to the 4 point range.  The game supports Facebook and Game Center, though Game Center appears to be strictly used for connecting to players since there are no leaderboards or achievements.  You can play solo against the computer, hot seat with a friend in the same room (does that option even exist any more?) or across the world via the internet.  You do need to keep in mind that you only earn money on games against other players, so only tackle the computer if you’re looking to hone your skills.

Edge of the World Central Core Studios, Inc., Edge of the World – Free

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Happy Hills 2: Bombs Away! – Happy Hills was one of those games that took me by surprise because I had seen very little to promote it yet it was actually a pretty slick puzzle game that deserved some attention.  Now the sequel has been released and it looks like more of the same but better, which is exactly the way a sequel should be.  The jubilant piles of dirt are once again not so joyous as the evil blocks have encroached on their territory and taken root on top of their mounds.  You have to use all of your wits, as well as a few keenly placed bombs and the surrounding environment, to knock away the blocks and restore a good mood to each and every hill.  The game consists of 80 brand new levels, as well as 80 classics that have been revamped from the original game.  New options in Puzzle mode include the ability to slow down time and the use of Happy Bombs.  There’s also a new Action mode where you take on wave after wave of falling blocks.  Not completely in tune with the presentation?  Customize the blocks and bombs to your liking.  Of course if the visuals maintain the level of those in the first game then I’m not sure why you’d want to mess with them.  When you’re not in the mood for slingshot flinging action but still want an action oriented puzzle game, Happy Hills is the place to go.

Happy Hills 2: Bombs Away! Thumbstar Games, Happy Hills 2: Bombs Away! – $0.99

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Heart Breaker : Infinite Dungeon – This is one of the latest Diablo style dungeon crawlers to hit the iOS platform, and it’s actually not too shabby.  First of all, the graphics are much better than the typical game of this design that doesn’t come from a big name developer like Gameloft.  You can choose one of three character types, you have multiple saves available and the levels are randomly generated, so there is a lot of replayability here.  I like the fact that you don’t start out fighting rats, bats and slime.  Sure skeletons, zombies and trolls are pretty standard fantasy fare as well, but they do throw in some winged eyes in the first few levels.  You’ll gather lots of equipment along the way, and there are actually some pretty detailed screens showing how switching from one weapon or piece of armor to another will affect you.  The real gimmick in this game, however, is the idea of the heart.  When certain foes fall you can rip out their heart, each of which is imbued with a particular skill.  Equipping these hearts gives you access to said skills, and you can also transplant the heart into a piece of equipment so the equipment grants you that skill.  Finally, the horror fiends among you can eat the hearts to gain some experience points.  While there’s no actual skill tree in the game the heart concept does add some depth to the system, and you get to check out the first few levels for free.

Heart Breaker : Infinite Dungeon ASH, Heart Breaker : Infinite Dungeon – Free

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Zombie Apocalift – Once again the zombie apocalypse is upon us, but in this unique take on the “kill the undead” theme you must help three survivors thwart rambling hordes while riding up in the elevators of various locations across the city.  Each character has a fixed position and one button to control their attack, so it’s pretty simple to grasp.  It does prove to be challenging as you find yourself focusing on one character as another ends up getting pummeled by zombies that you didn’t see arrive.  Each character has their own health bar, but it only takes one of them to fall in order for the level to be over.  The stamina bar is even more fun because it is what determines whether your characters have the strength to attack and it is shared by all three of them.  Every bar revives over time as long as you’re not attacking or being attacked, but it only takes a moment or two to lose all of your health.  Along the way you’ll earn money that can be used to buy boosts, to upgrade boosts or to unlock new characters and locations.  There are some things that can only be purchased via IAP which is a bit frustrating, but you still get a decent amount for the initial investment.

Zombie Apocalift Battlesheep, Zombie Apocalift – $0.99

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Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign – Sometimes these Marvel games seem to pop out of nowhere and it’s hard to tell if they are just cool fan games or actual licensed vehicles.  I’d wager that this is the latter given the seeming polish to the game, and as match 3 mash-ups go it’s not really groundbreaking but is pretty fun.  Your task is to assemble a group of Marvel heroes that may contain Avengers, X-Men and others and protect the world from villains that are trying to get their hands on a deadly substance known as isotope-8.  The first thing that caught my attention was the sense of humor.  This is probably one of the funniest Marvel games I’ve seen in quite some time.  The match 3 mechanics are pretty standard fare, but as you build up action points you can unleash each hero’s special powers which are a nice bonus.  You can also pick which villain you wish to target, which a lot of games of this nature don’t offer.  Some villains attack outright, while others plant timers on the playing field that will go off after a certain number of moves if you don’t use them in a match.  As you play you’ll earn hero points that you can use to unlock new characters, though it appears much of the game requires isotope points to unlock which only seem available via IAP.  This is labeled as a “preview” edition, so I’m not even sure if this is the full game, but if you dig super heroes and like the match 3 combat scene, it can’t hurt to check it out.

Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign D3PA, Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign – Free

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Lead the brave – Lead the brave is basically over before you know it.  There are 5 rooms to traverse: in the first four you need to get the treasure and in the fifth you meet up with the princess.  It’s the mechanics that earn this one a place on my list.  You have a button for each direction you can move, but after each move the buttons are shuffled!  This wouldn’t be too big of a deal except that your score is the overall time it takes you to complete the game.  The game could definitely use some fluff like traps that cause you to lose time or maybe even go back to the start of a level.  I also think it would be great to have a feature that randomly generates the levels on request so that you have a new set of levels to try and perfect.  Of course it’s understandable that only the base set could be used to rank you in the Game Center leaderboards, but randomization would add a lot to the replay factor of the game.  There is also Facebook and Twitter support in the game, which I imagine is mainly for sharing the score you just got with the world at large.  The aesthetics are reminiscent of Gameboy color games, which actually suits this type of game quite well.  There’s not much to Lead the brave at this point, but it could be something pretty cool if the developers spent some more time with it.

Lead the brave Hiromu Kato, Lead the brave – Free

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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