10 App Store Games To Watch [8/11/16]

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Please don’t fall out of your chair when you realize it has barely been a couple of weeks since I published my last roundup (at least if you’re reading this when I first post it).  This time around the majority of the games I selected are family friendly, but three in particular were made with the younger set in mind.  Highlights Monster Day is, as you might suspect, a window into a day in the life of a little monster.  It helps young kids get a grasp on what an average day for them might be like, and it actually has a couple of scenes with some fun physics interaction going on.  If you’re kids are musically inclined, or you want to give them the chance to be, Mussila – Musical monster adventure is a good place to start.  Among other things, this game teaches kids to identify instruments by their sounds, recognize different rhythms and tell which notes are which on a piano keyboard.  Finally, Family in Puzzle House is a game whose genre is near and dear to my heart.  This is a great way to introduce your kids to the wonderful world of adventure games, and I actually found it interesting enough to complete it myself.

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Family in Puzzle House [6/11/16] – If you’re a fan of adventure games and you have kids, or you just have younger kids and would like to see them playing something besides quick tap or action style games, Family in Puzzle House would be a great place to start.  This is a room escape game, where your characters are locked in a series of rooms and you must find a key to get out of each one.  Unlike typical games in this genre, however, this is very kid friendly.  The environments have the feel of a PBS cartoon, and as you walk through the rooms everything will be instantly recognizable to most youngsters.  The game does an excellent job with level progression, starting out with very basic puzzles and then moving to more complex sequences of events and even introducing the concept of a mini-game.  I also like the fact that you have the ability to combine and take apart inventory items, which is something that missing in a lot of “big people’s” adventure games.  In each room there are several hints available to you as well as the ability to “scan” the room to find any hotspots.  These tips cost coins or you can watch videos to get them for free.  Family in Puzzle House might not appeal to hardcore adventure gamers, but anyone that’s looking for a casual puzzle experience or that has kids should appreciate it.

Family in Puzzle House gameday Inc., Family in Puzzle House – Free

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UpTap [7/8/16] – UpTap is like the offspring of Geometry Dash and Doodle Jump.  From what I’ve seen so far the level design is extremely well done – some of the levels have proved a bit challenging – but unlike Geometry Dash you are mostly trying to jump upwards to get to your goal.  Of course there might be an occasion or two to head back down, but you don’t want to linger at the bottom of the screen, because eventually whatever is rising will catch you and take away a life if you’re not careful.  Each level has three gems to collect, and when you’ve collected enough of them you’ll earn a new skin for your avatar.  If the skins make any difference in the game play I’m not seeing it, but some of them are pretty cool looking.  There are even 5 premium skins that are animated, and purchasing one of them will remove ads from the game as well.  You have six lives to start with, and when they are all gone you either have to wait for them to replenish or watch a video to refill them.  This actually is not a terrible option, and one I wish more games like this would employ.  Of course you can also buy unlimited lives for $4.99, but that seems a bit steep for a game that only has 40 levels.  The game does offer a leaderboard and 5 achievements via Game Center, but the achievements basically revolve around completing everything and the first person to beat the game with all crystals will always have the top spot on the leaderboard.  Nitpicks aside, this is a fun causal game that should at least provide a couple of hours of entertainment before you beat all the levels.

UpTap Tiny Games, UpTap – Free

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Pixel Mage [7/25/16] – Pixel Mage is an old school platformer without the jumping.  Don’t worry, though, because you can still get over obstacles on the ground and pits by floating in a cloud.  Yeah, it’s a bit different, but it’s just one of the game’s charms.  The biggest down side to Pixel Mage is that there are only 12 levels to beat, so it has probably taken me longer to decide what to write about it than it will take you to play the game.  It’s worth the effort to download and play because despite the linear game play the levels are still well designed.  There’s a nice variety too, between standard levels, boss encounters and even a level where a wall of spikes trails behind you and tries to smash you.  I like the fact that you can take advantage of the environment, which means if you play your cards right you can easily dispatch some goblins by making the run into spikes or drown in pools of lava.  The game has a decent sense of humor, and the voice acting is actually fairly well done (yep, a low budget 12 level game actually has voice acting).  The animation is pretty impressive given the pixilated nature of the visuals, and for that matter the visual style as a whole is slick.  I just hope the developer decides to expand the game or make a sequel one day, because I’d definitely like to return to this world.

Pixel Mage David Zobrist, Pixel Mage – Free

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Highlights Monster Day [5/26/16] – I have to confess that I’ve not really pondered what a monster’s day might typically be like, other than the possibility of one living under my bed or waiting in a closet to jump out and scare me.  Don’t worry, though, because Monster Day is a kids’ game, so there will be none of those shenanigans here.  As it turns out they lead a life pretty close to that of your average 5 year old, and thanks to Highlights and Coto your youngsters will be able to experience that life one major activity at a time.  Get your little monster up, make it some breakfast and get it dressed so that it can go to school.  As you go through the school day you’ll learn that participation in class is okay and can actually be fun.  There are even some mini-games to play towards the end of the school day.  Go back home, have some supper and head off to bed to get ready for the next fun school day.  Oh, and don’t forget to brush your teeth a couple of times in there, as you’ll be rewarded with a congratulatory ding and some nice sparkles.  There are some nifty little touches, like the fact that the clothes you put on carry with your monster throughout the day and when you get in certain areas (especially where food is involved) the items interact with each other in a physics-y sort of way.  You can also take a snapshot of each scene that can be saved to your photo roll for the kids to use as wallpaper or send to a friend.  Unlike many of the kid friendly games I look at this isn’t one you adults are going to secretly load up at night when your children aren’t looking, but the young ones should enjoy it and you’ll probably delight in the reactions they make while they’re playing it.

Highlights Monster Day: Play at Home Game for my Preschooler Highlights for Children, Inc., Highlights Monster Day: Play at Home Game for my Preschooler – $2.99

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Bear Winter [1/13/15] – Wow, I didn’t realize when I grabbed this a couple of days ago that it had been out for a year and a half already.  I’m glad I ran across it, because it’s one of the most intriguing match 3 games I’ve played in quite a while.  The premise is that you’re out in the wilderness trying to survive and capture some bears.  The playing field is a grid three wide by seven high, but you only play in the lower 3×3 portion of the grid.  You can match any three tiles across, down or diagonally, but they only “count” if you match 3 of the same kind.  Otherwise, each match you make takes one away from your flame count, and if you lose all your flame you freeze to death.  If you have one or two bears in the mix instead of three you lose a heart, and when all your hearts are gone you die.  If you get three bears then they get added to the total number that you’ve captured.  Matching three flames actually adds 5 to your fire count, and three acorns gives you a heart back.  If you match three arrows it adds to your arrow count, and when you’ve collected enough you can “fire” your arrow which will collect all the bears on the board.  The visuals are elegant, the music is misleadingly soothing, and the game is tough – I have as yet to make it past day 3.  Bear Winter is perfect for those who want something different from their match 3 games and are also looking for a challenge.

Bear Winter Nevercenter Ltd. Co., Bear Winter – Free

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Tomb Heroes [8/4/16] – All you have to do is kill monsters and stay alive.  It seems that your weapon has quite the kick, however, because whenever you fire you jump back in the opposite direction.  This can work to your benefit, and it can also be a deal breaker.  Tap to shoot / jump, and the game handles everything else for you.  Last as long as you can to earn a high score and place on the leaderboard.  Occasionally a thief will stroll by that you can get some gems out of, and you can also earn gems by watching videos (or naturally by paying real money for them).  The gems can be used to buy new characters, which unfortunately at this point don’t seem to impact game play at all.  Some of them are pretty cool looking though.  There are also four backdrops, three of which must be earned by completing different milestones.  There are currently only two good power ups, as well as a couple of bad ones – be careful if you get turned into a bunny.  This game has a lot of potential, and is actually fairly entertaining as is, but hopefully future updates will see more power ups and meaningful differences between the various characters.

Tomb Heroes ZPLAY, Tomb Heroes – Free

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Perfect Fit [8/3/16] – On the surface this game seems like it would be easy to master.  The playing field is surrounded by four quadrants, each of which holds some tiles.  Tap a quadrant and those tiles move to the center playing field.  All you have to do is get the tiles from all 4 quadrants into the center without them overlapping.  Perfectly simple… if you weren’t being timed while doing it.  Get everything lined up and you’ll move on to the next level.  Make one mistake and the game is over.  When coins pop up on the playing field, be sure to hit them with a tile in order to collect them.  You can also get coins from a gift that becomes available in sporadic intervals, though surprisingly at this point it doesn’t appear that you can purchase them via IAP (but you can remove ads that way).  Coins can be used to buy new designs for the tiles or to extend your time when it’s running out on a given level.  Game Center offers a leaderboard based on high score and 10 achievements to earn.  This is the perfect fit for anyone’s quick react puzzle game collection… see what I did there?

Perfect Fit Appsolute Games LLC, Perfect Fit – Free

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Mussila – Musical monster adventure [6/10/16] – Continuing the kid friendly theme embraced by several of my entries this roundup, Mussila is of special interest to me because all of my kids play some sort of musical instrument.  What struck me first and foremost about the game was that it teaches kids to identify different instruments by their sounds.  I like this because it not only deals with the basic instrument types, but it gets more specific like a traditional versus electronic guitar or a piano as compared to a keyboard.  As you progress through the game you’ll also be given the opportunity to learn about rhythms and even how to tell what each of the notes are.  I’m not sure if someone could truly learn how to play just by using this game, but it certainly would be a fun way for kids to grasp the fundamentals of music.  Completing levels that have three star rankings allows you to unlock critters and costumes that accentuate your band, but more importantly it opens up new instruments that you can select for your band members to play when they jam out in the special Play Time levels of the game.  On these levels you can even pop up a piano keyboard at the bottom of the screen and play for yourself.  The whole thing has a PBS show look and feel, which is meant as a strong compliment.  Unlike some kid friendly games I mention this one might not appeal to adults on a long term basis, but if you have kids that are interested in music I think they’ll have a lot of fun with it, and you might even learn a thing or two in the process.

Mussila - Musical monster adventure | Notes | Piano | Rhythm | Melody Rosamosi ehf., Mussila – Musical monster adventure | Notes | Piano | Rhythm | Melody – $5.99

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Tap Craft – Clicker [8/4/16] – For the most part I’ve not been a big fan of the “click until your fingers fall off” one tap game play concept, because it’s always felt like a lazy mechanic more than anything else.  There’s something about this one that almost mesmerizes me, though.  When you’re on the main screen, the right side is your typical monster tapping area.  Each “minion” level is comprised of 10 monsters, and every fifth level is a boss monster.  Take the monsters down and you earn experience and coins, but get in over your head and you’ll die.  It seems you have the power of resurrection, however, and you basically have to fight the last battle where you died over again.  If a level or boss is too overwhelming simply return to a previous level to build yourself up more, as conquered non-boss levels churn out infinite foes when you go back to them.  On the left side of the screen is your forge, where you will create all of your weapons and armor.  Each unit in the forge takes a certain number of taps to complete and you can’t work the forge and fight monsters at the same time, so you’ll have to bounce back and forth between the two.  To build equipment you just need coins (and space in your backpack), but to upgrade you’ll need resources, which you get by building extra equipment and disassembling it.  Then there are the skills you can enhance as well as the mercenaries you are able to recruit and upgrade.  In the end this feels more like a basic RPG that just happens to have an annoying combat mechanic, and I’ve really enjoyed it.

Tap Craft - Clicker Vitaliy Mayorov, Tap Craft – Clicker – Free

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Sumeru [5/31/16] – Normally I don’t like to write entries based off of the free version of a game, because I never really know if I’m getting the full experience or not.  In this case, though, I liked what I saw enough that I figured it was worth the space.  Typically in line drawing platform games the lines act as just that – platforms to get your character from point A to point B.  Sumeru does that as well, but it goes far beyond the norm but actually having you use the lines you draw to solve puzzles.  Need to lift a door?  Use your drawing material to do that.  In the scenes that come in the free version you’re introduced to two types of material, one of which is heavier than the other.  In some screens you’ll need to use both together to get past certain obstacles.  What’s so neat about the game is that it forces you to think creatively to accomplish your goals.  For those that just can’t figure out a certain screen, there is help available.  Even that is a bit of a puzzle, as you’ll have to rearrange the pieces of the help image in order to fully understand the solution.  From what I’ve seen in the free version, this is a well thought out game that challenges you to use your brain.  To add icing on the cake, the graphics have an artsy feel to them, which is something I like to see every now and again.  I’ll definitely be investing in the full version when I get the chance.

Sumeru xiangwan zhang, Sumeru – $1.99
Sumeru Free xiangwan zhang, Sumeru Free – 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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