10 App Store Games To Watch [12/29/15]

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Welcome to my last roundup of 2015.  Hopefully you’ve enjoyed my forays into the myriad of releases the App Store has to offer, and possibly even picked up a game or two that you might not have considered otherwise.  I’ve had a lot of fun trying out all of these games for you, and I look forward to an even more entertaining year in 2016.  If you celebrate then have a safe holiday, and we’ll see you in the new year!

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Flock’s [11/15/15] – It seems that these Flappy clones keep invading my iPad.  This is probably the closest one to the source material that I’ve played in quite some time, complete with a bird as the protagonist.  It still outshines its predecessor in every way, however.  We start with fun, bouncy music and decent graphics, including a bird that’s actually kind of cute.  Next you have the controls, which while just a simple touch like Flappy Bird’s actually respond like you’d expect them to.  There’s even a dream sequence where by default you float up and you have to tap to make the bird go down instead.  Sure it’s more of a gimmick than anything, but at least it’s something a bit different.  The name “flock’s” comes from the fact that you can rescue little birds from cages, at which point they will follow you until you lose the game.  You get points for each pillar that you pass, and the more birds in your flock the more points you get per pillar.  There are berries to collect which will let you upgrade power ups, achievements to earn which will reward you with potions that can be used to continue when you die, and a home grown leaderboard that also lets you compete with other players by displaying a random person’s last run at the bottom of the screen while you’re flapping along.  This is the game that Flappy Bird could have been, and it’s worth checking out whether you’re a fan of the genre or not.

Flock's Simply Entertaining LLC, Flock’s – Free

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MinuteFrontier [12/15/15] – So it seems the game play mechanics of the day is “one tap does everything”.  The down side to this approach is that it usually leads to a fairly shallow gaming experience.  On the other hand, it’s the perfect match for a quick casual experience when you have a few moments to spare, and that’s exactly what MinuteFrontier provides.  You tap the left side of the screen to move left, and the right side to move right.  When you run into monsters you’ll typically attack automatically, though with some weapons you might actually have to do something additional like tap again or let go to complete the attack, which is a small but cool twist to combat in such a game.  Sometimes the creatures will leave items that you’ll automatically pick up, and these usually constitute level upgrades to weapons you have collected.  You start out as a Brave but can select one of several different jobs, each of which has their own basic weapons, unique skill upgrades and distribution of stats.  Defeating monsters earns you XP so that your character can level up, and occasionally you’ll beat a monster into submission so that it will follow you and fight with you.  The visuals have a great Gameboy Color look to them, and the music fits the genre just right.

MinuteFrontier Mitsuhiro Okada, MinuteFrontier – Free

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Puzzlewood Quests: Age of the Brain Trainers [4/13/15] – First of all, you need to understand that this game is designed for young kids.  That being said, there’s no reason that you couldn’t play it with them (just make sure they are your kids, because otherwise that might be kind of weird).  You choose one of 4 characters, two of which you have to buy through IAP, and you lead them on a quest through 9 different worlds.  Each land is filled with creatures waiting to be conquered, and you do that by completing a series of games like finding a word in a grid of letters or solving a simple equation.  The various games aren’t overly difficult, at least for older folks, but the challenge is increased by the fact that you only get a certain amount of time before your opponent attacks you.  For each puzzle you solve correctly you attack the bad guy, and depending on the puzzle they’ll attack you if you get it wrong.  And of course when your time is up they’ll attack as well.  Killing a monster earns you experience which allows you to level up and increase one of four stats.  Beating a level earns you stars, and if you get enough stars you can unlock the 3 bonus worlds.  There is a lot to explore here, the characters are cool and there’s some humor thrown in for good measure, and the younger set might actually learn some useful basic skills in the process of playing.

Puzzlewood Quests: Age of the Brain Trainers Downcast Systems LLC, Puzzlewood Quests: Age of the Brain Trainers – Free

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Solitaire Detectives [10/30/15] – This card based mystery is founded on the Pyramid Solitaire variant of the classic card game.  For each case you’ll have to solve a variety of solitaire boards set up in different configurations.  You’ll uncover clues to the mystery, although it’s all ultimately a gimmick as you’ll automatically solve each case once you’ve completed the last board.  It still gives the game a unique flair, though.  If you play your cards right you can earn various streak bonuses, and if you get dealt a bad hand you can use the Sherlock-themed wild cards to match anything on the board.  Once you complete a case in classic mode you can go back and play it in timed mode, and then on a hard difficulty setting, so there is some replay value built in.  I’m normally of the mindset that if you want to play solitaire you should just go to your local dollar store and buy a deck of cards, but the mystery backdrop of Solitaire Detectives makes this a notable exception in my book.

Solitaire Detectives - Crime & Mystery Investigation Card Game Tapps Tecnologia da Informação Ltda., Solitaire Detectives – Crime & Mystery Investigation Card Game – Free

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Fly or Dive [11/13/15] – This is another game from Alexey Pajitnov, the creator of one of the most famous time sinks in console gaming, Tetris.  This time around there are no falling blocks, however.  Instead you have to guide a hot air balloon around the world by making it go up or down at the appropriate times.  In order to do that you’ll need to match at least 4 balloons or weights in a rectangular shape in the 5 x 5 grid playing field.  Your playing pieces can be anywhere between 1 and 4 tiles and be any combination of weights, balloons and patch pieces, as well as simply being blank tiles.  If you lay a patch piece on a balloon or weight it will make the other piece disappear, and if you accidentally place a balloon or weight on another balloon or weight you’ll create a whole that you need to use a patch to fix.  You keep playing until you’re forced into creating a match that is opposite of the direction you want to go or you create a leak that you can’t patch.  I suppose it’s possible to fill up the board as well, but if so I haven’t run into that problem yet.  There are 18 achievements, one for passing each city for the first time as well as a couple of long term rewards, and a leaderboard for high scores.  Fly or Dive certainly doesn’t have the twitch factor or adrenaline rush of Tetris, but it’s a nice diversion none the less.

Fly or Dive ANDREY NOVIKOV, Fly or Dive – Free

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Rust Bucket [12/16/15] – Nitrome has become one of my favorite small time developers over the past year, and it’s because of games like Rust Bucket.  This turn based dungeon crawler is anything but ordinary.  Instead of collecting loot and building up stats you must complete dungeon after dungeon of intricate puzzles.  In one section you might have to move blocks around Sokoban style while in the next you’ll need to coax a creature into walking over a switch for you.  You’ll have to decide when you can strike at the monsters and when you need to run.  Larger dungeons are divided into sections with checkpoints, so for the most part you won’t have to repeat challenging sections once you’ve mastered them.  Besides the well crafted “campaign” mode there is an endless mode, but to me that doesn’t feel quite as compelling.  In endless mode there are coins to collect, but I’m not sure what you use them for.  In campaign mode there are 10 achievements to earn as well as a leaderboard to rank on.  There’s also a mystery mode labeled as “coming soon”.  Besides the game play itself I love the visuals in Rust Bucket.  Much like Ravenous Games, Nitrome has a great pixel look to their games, and in this case the fact that most of the characters are basically heads is pretty cool.

Rust Bucket Nitrome, Rust Bucket – Free

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Panic Pump [9/6/15] – Panic Pump is a good old fashioned puzzle game.  You know, one of those that would rather kick you when you’re down than handhold you through the experience.  In this case the game play is based off of the concept where you have several racks that hold 4 marbles apiece, and you have to get each one filled with the right marbles.  Where this one goes completely into left field, however, is that the playing field is a series of cages that have creatures locked inside of them, and the racks are locks that can open the cages.  If you match 4 of the same color marbles in a rack (and depending on the level they might need to be a certain color for a given rack) the rack will explode.  Destroy them all in order to free the creature inside.  The other caveat is that this is a 3D game, so you’ll have to rotate the cube to find all of the locks on some levels.  In the couple of levels I’ve been able to experience so far you’ll run into things like teleports and garbage that takes up space on the racks without being useful.  For the average gamer there should be plenty of challenge, and the one misgiving I have with the game that might compound that is that the controls don’t work the best in the 3D world.  If you can conquer that problem, however, this game has plenty to offer, especially if you unlock the extra modes via IAP.  Puzzle gamers that have been looking for a unique experience on their iDevice should really give this one a try.

Panic Pump Digilie Studio, Panic Pump – Free

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Tap Company: Startup in Miami [12/4/15] – To be honest, a lot of these “single click” games feel like cheap attempts at creating a game that has no actual game play value.  Tap Company does an excellent job of separating itself from the pack, however.  Your task is to help a small startup in Miami to flourish, which you’ll do by tapping the various rooms in the office to earn money.  You’ll also fill up bars in those rooms, and when they reach capacity you’ll tap and hold to transfer the money to a building fund.  This will allow you to slowly expand your business.  As you earn cash you’ll be able to upgrade your offices, hire new employees and train everyone to earn better on their own.  When the offices level up they will change physically to reflect your success and accomplishments, and if you want to take a break from tapping you can just sit and watch the employees as they go about their business.  In addition to cash you’ll earn chips that can be used to gamble in your underground casino for some quick payouts.  Of course you’ll eventually be earning enough money that the gambling is more for a diversion than anything else.  If the current crop of frantic clickers has left you a bit underwhelmed, Tap Company might just change your mind.

Tap Company: Startup in Miami POSSIBLE GAMES Kft., Tap Company: Startup in Miami – Free

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Go Home Dizzy [11/23/15] – Go Home Dizzy is one of the most interesting rogue-like games I’ve played on an iOS device this year.  Your main character is just trying to get home, but he seems to have an issue where he just can’t stop spinning.  In order to make some progress you need to touch the screen and let go, at which point Dizzy will move in the direction his sword is pointing.  The longer you hold, the farther Dizzy will travel.  Striking things with either the sword or shield will kill them, but using the shield in that manner will make it disappear.  If a creature strikes you aside from the sword or shield you’ll lose a heart, and when they are all gone you’ll die.  Along the way you’ll encounter anvils that provide you with upgrades to your attack and things that look like water towers that give you extra hearts or other defensive goodies.  Of course all of this requires bones for payment, which you get when you kill bad guys.  Occasionally you’ll run into someone that needs rescuing, and if you’re successful you’ll earn a new helmet you can don and weapon to wield.  Otherwise, in true rogue-like fashion when you die you lose everything you’ve earned.  There are several quests to complete, and a high score table that looks to be home grown.

Go Home Dizzy Andrew Morrish, Go Home Dizzy – Free

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Kraken chess [11/2/15] – For the last game in my last roundup of 2015 I thought I’d cover one that’s pretty basic and as a result probably hasn’t received much press.  If you’re looking for a traditional chess game with a fantasy theme, however, you’re out of luck.  Kraken chess is still a two player game of logic, but you each only have one piece which is your Viking.  On each turn you get two actions – first you get to move, and then you choose a piece for the kraken to consume.  The thing is, the kraken will also take the matching piece found somewhere else on the board.  Players take turns taking their two actions until someone is either swallowed up by the kraken or boxed in so they can’t move anywhere.  Kraken chess has basic mechanics, but it’s a free puzzle game that has no equivalent on the App Store as far as I know.  The main down side is that the game only offers two player hot seat play, but maybe if the developers get enough support they’ll add some remote multiplayer options or even a bit of computer AI for those that don’t have any friends.

kraken chess Marcelo Pirk, kraken chess – Free

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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