10 App Store Games To Watch [2/19/16]

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So I start this roundup with an apology.  In a couple of the early entries I made reference to Game Center with comments like “I think” and “there appears to be”, because the games indicated they supported Game Center but for the last couple of weeks at least I have been unable to log in to the service.  After a while I just gave up on mentioning Game Center.  I know that’s not really my fault, but somebody has to apologize for the fact that Apple seems to keep breaking their fundamental iOS applications.  Anyway, you’ll see a lot of familiar styles of game in this list, because I like what I like.  Just remember that the games make my list because they kept me entertained, not necessarily because they were of a particular game mechanic.  It just happens that those two things obviously collide more often than not.

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Protect The Planet [2/4/16] – This is the latest game from Ketchapp, at least at the time I wrote this piece.  Like many of their games, it takes an established concept and throws a Ketchapp spin to it, in this case somewhat literally.  Your job is to protect the planet in the middle of the screen, and you do this by revolving a “moon” around it to destroy all the incoming asteroids.  I use that term loosely, because for every 100 coins you earn you can unlock another moon, and the last one I unlocked turned out to be a giant boxing glove.  Unlike many games of this type that use the two halves of the screen or maybe even left and right buttons to determine which way you’ll spin, this game uses a single tap to switch directions.  It’s been hard for me to get used to and has caused some dismay when I’ve forgotten and caused my moon to go in the opposite direction of what I’ve wanted, but it certainly makes the game play feel a bit different than other games of a similar style.  There are only a couple of different power ups, which I also find somewhat disappointing, but what I do like is that the shattered remains of the asteroids can destroy other asteroids, so if you strike one just right you can create cool combos.  I also enjoy watching the planet change as you keep it around longer.  Besides being able to unlock different moons I believe there is also a leaderboard and achievements via Game Center, but at the moment I can’t seem to log in to the service to confirm that.  Protect The Planet is already rather entertaining, but a few more power ups and moons that actually made a difference in game play would certainly set this game at the head of the pack from its peers.

Protect The Planet Ketchapp, Protect The Planet – Free

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Hyspherical 2 [2/2/15] – This is one of those games that is simple in premise, execution and looks, yet incredibly challenging and ultimately satisfying when you complete certain levels.  The map contains 125 main levels so far, as well as several bonus paths that get unlocked when you reach certain levels.  Each level is comprised of one or more shapes, and you must get a circle to travel around the perimeter of each shape at least once.  The trick is that none of the circles can collide with each other.  You start with three stars on a level, and after a certain number of collisions you lose a star.  Once you’ve lost all the stars you’ve failed the level and must start over.  The saving grace is that you can stop one sphere at a time by tapping to hold it.  Just be sure that you aren’t neglecting your other spheres in the process.  As the levels progress you’ll have more shapes to contend with, some shapes will start moving back and forth, and you’ll even have to put multiple spheres on one shape.  Oh, and did I mention the spikes?  All of this is just in the few levels of played, since I can’t seem to get past level 14 of the main map or the first bonus level.  If you’re looking for a puzzle game that stands out from the pack and provides more of a decent level of challenge, Hyspherical 2 is definitely worth checking out.

Hyspherical 2 Game Analytics, Hyspherical 2 – Free

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Mr.Taxi: GTA(Grand Taxi Auto) [1/13/16] – There are plenty of taxi style games for iOS devices, including the SEGA classic Crazy Taxi, so why this one?  There’s something about the relative simplicity of the game that I find relaxing and enjoyable.  And, I like the fact that you can basically do whatever you want as long as you don’t run over a potential passenger.  Need to take a shortcut?  Just plow through someone’s back yard.  Feeling particularly destructive?  Take out every lamp post you see.  Even when you “accidentally” run someone over you can try to stay away from the police for as long as possible.  There are 25 different cars to collect, each with differing values in the categories of Max Speed, Fuel Efficiency and Seating Capacity.  Each one also has certain Bonuses and / or skills.  For every 2000 coins you earn you can spin to win a car, or if there’s one you want really bad you can buy it via IAP.  You can even upgrade the passengers.  Once you’ve picked up and dropped off a particular type of passenger enough times you’ll be able to raise their level which means they’ll earn you more money and a higher score, and often give you some sort of bonus if their trip is perfect, whatever that means.  I’m pretty sure the game offers leaderboards and achievements via Game Center as well, but I still can’t log into it to verify it.

Mr.Taxi: GTA(Grand Taxi Auto) Ok Yoonchan, Mr.Taxi: GTA(Grand Taxi Auto) – Free

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Eco Birds [12/24/15] – You may have thought I’ve moved on by now, but I bring you yet another in my long line of “thank you for not being Flappy Bird” entries.  This time around your job is to thwart the evil men that are trying to ruin the ecosystem by dropping eggs on them.  I’m not really sure how that works, but it’s a video game so it doesn’t have to make sense, right?  As usual you’ll tap to flap upwards and let go to descend.  Control is actually quite responsive, which means the challenge actually comes from the layout of the levels, and challenging it certainly is.  The level is randomly generated each time, and it’s full of dips and rises and plenty to stop you in mid flight.  As you fly your energy bar will be depleted, but a quick snack of floating cherries will fix that.  When you tap to ascend you’ll also drop eggs on everything below, which annoys the people and causes trees to grow from severed stumps (again, it’s a game).  Hit enough of the same thing and you’ll earn some bugs, which you can also collect throughout the level.  You can even earn bugs by watching videos or playing a daily mini-game where you sort garbage into the correct recycling bins.  Even with all of those “income streams”, however, it will still require some grinding to get enough gold to buy even the cheapest bird.  Each bird has a special ability, however, so if you’re in it for the long haul it will be worth your while.

Eco Birds Storm Watch Games, Inc., Eco Birds – Free

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Exothermia Match 3 Collectible Card Game Puzzle [12/14/15] – As match three games go, Exothermia is actually kind of ordinary.  Match three or more of the same color flask to clear them from the board.  Each level has a point score that you must reach as well as a certain number of a specific color or colors of flask you must clear away.  Depending on your point total you’ll earn 1, 2 or 3 stars, which translates into some gold for your account.  Where the game gets interesting is in the use of cards as power ups.  If you match four flasks in a line you’ll get 1 card, and five flasks nets you 2 cards.  You can have 30 cards in your active deck at any given time, and up to five cards face up and ready to play at once.  You can also play multiple cards in the same swipe, which makes for some rather cool combos if you do it right.  Cards give you advantages like 2x or 3x score, additional cards regardless of how many flasks you match, and board clearing powers like eliminating a whole row or column with a match.  Some cards will work for multiple swipes, others are a “one and done” deal, and some can even be activated without making a match.  There are 8 worlds each comprised of 16 levels, as well as a daily challenge you can try to beat.  Hook up to Facebook to compete against other players as well as sync your game across multiple devices.

Exothermia Match 3 Collectible Card Game Puzzle Cladcake HB, Exothermia Match 3 Collectible Card Game Puzzle – Free

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Song of Pan [12/9/15] – Song of Pan is sort of like The Pied Piper meets Crocodile Dundee.  You play Pan, the playful Satyr who would rather play music than tend to his chores.  As such you sort of let Zeus’ flock of sheep get away, and for punishment he split your precious flute up into five pieces and scattered it all around the land.  Now you must gather up all his sheep and recover the five segments of your flute.  Collect glowing blue orbs to temporarily gain the gift of music again, and position yourself where the orb’s blue sphere of influence encompasses the sheep so they will follow you.  The orbs’ effects are temporary, so you can’t take forever, but if you go too fast you’ll get away from the sheep and they’ll stop moving.  If you need to you can tap a button to stop the orb’s influence early, which can be used to position sheep as stepping stones to reach out of the way platforms.  There’s a wonderful puzzle element to the game, and the levels often challenging yet ultimately fair.  The control scheme is different and takes a bit of getting used to, as you tap and hold the side of the screen that corresponds to the direction you want to run, and then you tap the other side to jump.  This unfortunately makes it hard sometimes to be precise and doesn’t allow for you to jump straight up.  The only real problem, however, is that instead of the typical “try a few levels and buy the rest”, you get the whole game for free, but have to pay $3.99 to unlock the ability to save your game.  I’d still encourage you to try it out, and maybe you’ll find the price tag worth it to continue from where you last left off.

Song of Pan Thumbspire Inc., Song of Pan – Free

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Color Switch [12/7/15] – Color Switch takes the idea of rotating a shape to match the color of falling items and turns it on end.  You still have shapes with sides of various colors, but now you control an object that bounces up when you tap and then falls back down when you release the screen.  The shapes might be rotating or moving back and forth or in some other state of motion, and you must tap at the right time to get your object to pass through the side of the shape that matches the color of your object.  Along the way there are stars to collect, and at times you’ll run into an object that randomly changes your color.  The default game play mode is endless and random, but there are several specialty modes with several finite, well defined levels.  Challenges is basically endless mode with finite levels, and Cave is similar but with a limited field of view which can make it interesting to know what’s coming up.  Reverse has you falling from the top instead of coming up from the bottom, and Color Swap automatically changes your color at random intervals instead of waiting for you to run into a color changer.  Races pits you against a phantom runner for each level, and Color Fly is like the Color Switch equivalent of a Flappy Bird clone.

Color Switch Samuel Ratumaitavuki, Color Switch – Free

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Rec [1/13/16] – I was about ready to delete this game from my device and just move on, but then I realized this is exactly the reason I write this roundup.  I was frustrated because after all the times I’ve played this game I’m still only on level 3.  The thing is, no matter how many times I’ve failed a particular level I keep coming back for more, and that’s a sure sign that a game is well made.  You control a red circle that embodies the record symbol of a VCR (sorry if you youngun’s are lost on that one), and you must travel through the filmstrips of various non-descript movie genres.  The visuals are pretty slick, with the filmstrip a solid black and everything else in the background shades of grey.  You, of course, rock a cool red with a nice white glow around you.  The control is simple: tap to speed up.  Jumping is handled automatically, though sometimes it can end up being more like a gentle roll to you your doom if you’re not going fast enough.  One caveat to the game is that while it’s possible to stop, that comes from sheer luck.  There are no brakes per se, so if you start sliding backwards you could end up simply sliding off the other side of the platform.  In the couple levels I have played so far I’ve encountered power ups that change the gravity and platforms that disappear not long after you land on them, both of which present interesting challenges.  The game offers 27 achievements to earn, and simply collecting all three stars on each level should be enough to keep you busy for quite some time.

REC Callipix, REC – Free

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Raknar [1/29/16] – Raknar is one of those games that you’re positive you played 20 years ago, yet it’s still a blast to play today.  All you have to do is grab the rune on each level so you can teleport to the next one.  The game would map perfectly to a good old fashioned console controller as you have directional arrows to move around the board and buttons for swinging your axe, shooting your bow, jumping and rolling.  You’ll face all the typical platform villains like bats, skeletons, walking blobs and killer clowns, as well as the assorted falling platforms, rows of fire that you can roll through and barriers that must be deactivated by striking a switch.  The graphics have a great 8 bit look to them, and the sound effects are spot on for that era as well.  Sadly there is no music, though one or two chiptunes would suffice nicely.  The only thing I’m not big on is the fact that once you lose all of your lives you basically have to start back at level one or buy some gems to continue.  But, I guess that’s the price you pay for a free game!  Raknar doesn’t do anything revolutionary, but it’s a great reminder of why we’ve loved video games for so long.

Raknar VICTOR VERDU, Raknar – Free

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Cute VS Evil [2/3/16] – I decided to end this roundup with another match 3 game.  You know the drill – select 3 or more of the same object to clear it from the board.  Some objects can only be cleared by making matched next to them, and some objects take multiple passes to eliminate.  One fun object is the fish, because when you clear that one it will go out and eat one of the bad elements on the board.  You also have pretty basic power ups in the form of “clear one item from the board” and “undo a move”.  However, the cool power up is the magic potion flask that fills up as you make matches.  When it gets at least half full you can unleash a power up that eliminates a row or column, and if you fill it all the way up the power up will do both a row and column.  One you select the power up (it gets applied automatically if the flask is full) it will attach itself to a random object on the board.  Use that object in a match, and whatever row / column contains the last object in the match will be obliterated.  The best part of the game, however, is that on some levels the match 3 mechanics bet mashed up with a bubble shooter.  Make sure the last item in the match is along the top boarder of the match 3 field, and you’ll be able to shoot that item at the clump of bubbles at the top of the screen.  I’m kind of surprised this isn’t used in all the levels, since it’s what makes Cute Vs Evil stand out the most from other match 3 games currently available.  One other thing that impressed me is that for a F2P game I was able to get pretty far without ever feeling like I HAD to dump money into it to continue.

Cute VS Evil TiTon ApS, Cute VS Evil – 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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