10 App Store Games To Watch [2/19/15]

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As I continue to delve through my backlog of games it amazes me how many hidden gems there are.  Of course there are still lots of new games coming out there are cool as well.  This article’s collection includes everything from retro turn based RPGs to hybrid runners / collectable card games.  And as always, everything on this list is here because I’ve played it and enjoyed it enough that I felt it was worth writing about.  Hopefully you’ll feel the same once you’ve taken some of these games for a spin.

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Zombie Highway 2 [8/8/14] – Everyone’s favorite 3D vehicular zombie mauling franchise is back for another outing, and it certainly hasn’t lost any muster.  If you’re not familiar with the dreaded Zombie Highway, it’s basically you in a vehicle trying to plow down as many of the undead as you can before either they take you out or you run into something because you’re too busy dealing with the zombies.  Your options are to run over the zombies, scrape them off your car using your surroundings or shoot them off with your weapon of choice.  There are six different vehicles to unlock as well as 15 types of weapons to acquire, each with something to upgrade.  Money is used to perform upgrades and to commandeer new weaponry while coins let you unlock new rides early or rewind the game.  Yes, if you die too young you can rewind slightly and try to avoid whatever caused your imminent demise – but keep in mind you can only use this trick so many times in a given run and it gets more expensive each time.  Of course if the simple thrill of decimating hordes of zombies isn’t enough for you, the game does have a highest distance leaderboard via Game Center as well as 55 achievements to earn.

Zombie Highway 2 Auxbrain, Inc., Zombie Highway 2 – Free

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Monster Kingdom 2: Rise of the Grembles [11/13/14] – There was a time when Pokemon style games were actually hard to come by, but now they seem almost as plentiful as match 3 games, especially considering that many of them use the match 3 mechanic for combat.  Thankfully this one takes the more traditional rock-paper-scissors approach with each monster representing a certain element that is better than one type and worse than another.  You start off with one monster to train, and can capture more along the way using spirit cubes.  Monsters can be leveled up and they can evolve, and you can also level up their abilities.  When you win battles you will be rewarded with lots of goodies, some of which can be equipped to your monsters to increase their stats even further.  Items can be fused or bolstered with gems to make them more powerful.  Explore the single player campaign or take on other players live in the arena.  If you’re feeling a bit more friendly you can trade with other players to get the perfect equipment for your playing style.  There are several achievements to earn, though the game uses its own system instead of Game Center.  I don’t know if this is the best choice for Pokemon clones out there, but right now it’s certainly an enjoyable one for me.

Monster Kingdom 2: Rise of the Grembles Zhurosoft, Monster Kingdom 2: Rise of the Grembles – Free

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Platform Panic [12/16/14] – I’m a big fan of games that manage to make single screen experiences engaging.  Platform Panic ups the ante by randomly stringing the screens together, so no two runs through are exactly the same.  The down side is that the distinct number of styles of screen seems to be a bit on the small side, but the developers get around that by flipping the orientation and changing things slightly like adding an extra explosive or something of that nature.  Your score is determined by the highest number of rooms you visit in one run, and the coins you collect are used to buy new characters.  There are 9 characters to collect altogether, and most of them will seem familiar if you have much of a past playing console games.  You’ll have to do quite a bit of playing to earn enough coins to get all the characters, which initially seemed a bit frustrating and not worth the effort.  Thankfully the first update introduced upgrades that provide your characters with power ups, so now the thrill comes in unlocking each character and finding out what it brings to the game.  Of course there is also a leaderboard to see who has conquered the most rooms in a single run as well as 8 achievements to unlock.  Not only is this a fun little time waster, but it’s also a nice bit of nostalgia for platform buffs.

Platform Panic Nitrome, Platform Panic – Free

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Hero Pop [1/8/15] – This is a cute take on the whole balloon popping genre.  Instead of a random tap fest there’s a bit of logic and puzzle solving involved in this game.  To clear balloons you have to make matches of three or more, and if you can make a match of five or more balloons you’ll create a super balloon that can unleash various cool powers on the gaming field depending on the color of the balloon.  Each level has one or more goals to complete in order to pass the level, and most levels only provide you with a certain number of moves.  As you finish levels you earn coins which can be used to purchase power ups to start the level with.  Once you master a group of levels you’ll have to complete three special quests to move on to the next set of levels, and the coins can also be used to bypass these special quests (which are a tad bit tougher than the normal levels).  You can connect to Facebook to rank your progress, but you can also trade with your friends to get extra lives or keys to unlock the quests before their time.  There is even a leaderboard and 22 achievements through Game Center if you’re not much into Facebook.  This is a freemium game, so expect to spend some time waiting for certain things if you choose not to shell out any IAP.

Hero Pop Chillingo Ltd, Hero Pop – Free

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Bit Dungeon [12/14/12] – If the general crop of rogue-like games on the iOS platform seem a bit tame to you, bit Dungeon might be a “bit” more to your liking.  The biggest challenge is that it forces permadeath on you instead of making it an option or not even having it at all.  In addition to that you only get one slot for each type of item, and that’s the slot that you use to equip said item.  This makes you really think about what you want to keep and throw away instead of just picking up everything you run across in the dungeon.  Every level is a 9×9 grid with a boss room at the end, but the contents of each room is randomly generated, as to an extent is the way in which rooms are connected.  Besides equipment and health and mana potions you can collect souls which can be used to buy equipment or additional lives should you happen across the ghostly imp that’s selling such things.  The graphics and sound have a great 8 bit feel, and despite the diminutive nature of the main character everything you equip him with changes his appearance.  The one thing that’s kind of frustrating is that the game locks up for a fraction of a second every once in a while, but that hasn’t deterred me from playing several runs through.

bit Dungeon Tom Heinecke, bit Dungeon – $0.99

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Super Scrapped Robot [7/13/14] – I probably picked this up roughly around the time it came out, but it was a recent article about “retro games you should be playing now” that made me finally give it a try.  Turns out I shouldn’t have waited so long to give it a shot.  You play a robot that gets tossed in the trash and decides to escape from his ship and go on a quest for hats.  It’s a dual stick shooter which means plenty of bad guys to decimate, many of which fortunately enough look like cats.  Each level contains a subterranean cavern that houses both that level’s boss and hat.  Finding the entrance might mean playing a mini game, defeating a crowd of bad guys to rescue a hapless victim or flipping a switch somewhere else on the level, just to name a few options.  There are 11 achievements to earn, and if you support the game via IAP you’ll unlock the ability to challenge other players.  The IAP also provides you with options to tweak the game’s difficulty as well as the ability to change color palettes, and in an interesting twist you can choose what you want to pay even though based on the description all levels provide the same unlocks.  The game looks and sounds like a modern Gameboy game, so those that remember the era will get a nice feeling of nostalgia as well.

Super Scrapped Robot bureaubureau, Super Scrapped Robot – Free

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Monsu [10/1/14] – Monsu is a 2D side scrolling infinite runner with levels.  I know that sounds a bit contradictory, but the idea is that you can play a particular level for as long as you can keep going, collecting all the diamonds and points that you can.  Once you’ve died you will have either completed the goal for that level in which case you can move on to the next, or you’ll have to repeat the level and try to do better.  For each level you complete you’ll get a nice little bonus, and on every fifth level you’ll earn a fairly decent prize, including the occasional bonus card.  That’s where Monsu gets interesting.  In addition to the typical bonuses like shield and magnet, there are a total of 44 cards that you can collect that fall into three different categories.  You can have one card from each group active at a given time, and the cards provide cool power ups like a dinosaur to ride, a hornet that mows down enemies and a bauble that increases the longevity of other power ups by a certain amount of seconds.  The best part is that each card can be upgraded to level 5 to make them even more powerful and useful (except for the duck, which apparently isn’t useful at all).  You can compete in tournaments with Facebook friends to earn prizes, and there are 14 achievements for you to conquer that will net you some cool gems to spend.

Monsu Boomlagoon, Monsu – Free

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Dungeon of Genesis [12/3/14] – If you remember what it was like to play “3D” dungeon crawlers before the concept of a 3D engine even existed then this game is for you.  Fans of any of the old games like Bard’s Tale or Might and Magic should appreciate it, but to me it most closely resembles the original Wizardry series.  You create a party of up to six characters with a system that seems quite limited by today’s standards, and then you descend into the dungeon to conquer all the nasty critters until you get to level 30 to defeat Geordeen, the demon king.  Though there are plenty of levels there is only one dungeon, and the “town” consists of a few locations accessible by a scrolling menu on the main screen.  On a slightly more modern note the graphics are pretty decent and the music is good and sometimes just a bit eerie.  And, in a twist that I don’t think I’ve seen before, daily bonuses don’t penalize you for missing days between logins (so if you’ve only played 4 times in two weeks, you’ll still get the day 5 bonus when you log in for the fifth time).  This definitely won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and modern gamers might find it lacking in the “essentials” for a good dungeon crawl, but old timers and nostalgia buffs really should give it a try.

Dungeon of Genesis Akihiro Moriwaki, Dungeon of Genesis – Free

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Neonize Premium [8/28/14] – If you’ve always felt that Simon was an interesting but slightly mundane memory game, Neonize is the cure for that.  Just like in Simon, you’ll be presented with a sequence that you have to match.  In this case the sequence is the direction from which you’re being attacked, as you are a spacecraft in the center of a hostile area.  You keep playing until an enemy craft gets close enough to touch you.  If you accidentally fire in the wrong direction you can correct yourself, but you can’t shoot again until the first bullet has cleared the screen, so don’t count on this safety net to be very useful.  Score is based on the number of ships you destroy, but you can build up a multiplier by blasting ships on the beat – once you miss the beat, however, the multiplier is gone.  There are 44 achievements to earn through game center and 24 medals for the taking, and while I haven’t done a total compare I’m assuming that all of the medals correspond to achievements with an additional load of achievements to earn.  There are also three leaderboards to rank on: score, endurance and number of hits.  Neonize does a nice job of taking the concept of a memory game and adding a little kick to it.

Neonize Premium Defenestrate Studios LLC, Neonize Premium – $0.99

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Warship Solitaire [1/15/15] – If you were to take Battleship, combine it with the Picross puzzle concept and toss out multiplayer mode you’d have Warship Solitaire.  The bad news is that there is little frill – music only plays during the menus and sound effects are basically non-existent (well, unless you crank the volume way up).  Thankfully, the game doesn’t really need any bells and whistles.  Using a simple set of rules and a few predefined squares in a grid, your job is to find each of the 6 battleships hidden in the water.  You get 10 hints to help you along the way, and you can buy additional hints via IAP or use your favorite social media to ask for help.  The game has 5 level sets that contain 25 puzzles each, so there’s enough to keep you busy for a while.  There are 10 achievements to earn through Game Center, and you can also share your victories as you conquer each level.

Warship Solitaire Nexx Studio, Warship Solitaire – $0.99

Well that wraps up another edition of games to watch on the App Store. As always, if there’s something you’ve played recently that you feel should be part of this list, please leave a reply to this post. Previous weekly installments of our App Store Games Roundup:

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