Halloween Roundup 2016
It’s that time of year again: apple cider, pumpkin pie and a chill in the air. No wait, that’s Thanksgiving… wow, they’re like twin holidays separated by almost a month! Anyway, I’ve tried to make it a custom to release a horror themed roundup to coincide with the tradition of Halloween. Unfortunately, due to some unforeseen circumstances I didn’t get to spend quite as much time on it this year as I would have liked, and as a result it’s only 7 games long instead of the usual 10. Plus, I will admit to using a couple of games I’ve written about in the past to make things go a bit quicker as well (I promise none of these were in last year’s Halloween roundup, though). So enough excuses and babbling – on to the games!
Feed the Spider! [4/9/16] – All the poor spider wants to do is eat, and it’s up to you to make sure it gets as many insects as it wants. Conceptually your task is easy enough. The spider spins around, and you tap the screen to launch a bug close enough that the spider can catch it with a strand of web. The thing is, despite the spider being hungry it does its best to make your job difficult. The spider will spin around, often switching directions. It will go at different speeds and stop abruptly. And then there are the hands. Basically, if two bugs collide or a bug touches any one of the spider’s hands you have to start the level over. Thankfully there are no timers and no limits to how many times you can try a level (except for how patient you are), so take your time and try to study the spider’s habits on a given level. For a while you will unlock a new type of bug after reaching a certain number of levels, and for every 100 bugs you collect you’ll get to spin for a free accoutrement for your spider. They don’t affect the game play any, but they can sure make your spider look snazzy. There are 1200 (!!!) levels to conquer and 19 achievements to earn via Game Center. And, not only this game entertaining, but it’s a great family oriented game.
Guilherme Barbosa, Feed the Spider! – Free
Puzzlepops! Trick or Treat [10/19/16] – For the most part I tend not to cover seasonal updates on games, but I’m feeling a bit rebellious this year. Although in this case, Puzzlepops! Trick or Treat is really its own game. If you’re not familiar with the original, the idea is basically that you slide candy around a board, trying to get it to land in certain spots. Sometimes you’ll have to merge like candies together in order to get them to be big enough to fill the target location, and in the case of the bats you’ll actually have to “bump” them into place by sliding another candy into them, because you can’t manipulate the bats directly. In the free levels you only get two specialty candies – the bat and the wax lips – but in the full version there are 4 more level sets, so I’m sure you’ll get all kinds of fun goodies to play with (but remember, don’t play with your food in real life). The free portion of the game offers 25 levels with an additional 50 unlocked via a meager IAP purchase, and I assure you that while it might look like a kiddie game, there is definitely some challenge to many of these levels. Thankfully, once you’ve unlocked a given group you can jump to any level within that group at any time, which is a big plus if you get stuck and the way all these types of puzzle games should be. The game offers three achievements to earn which basically correspond to milestones in completing various sections of the game, and there is one leaderboard based on number of puzzles solved (so your ranking will be based on how quickly you solve all 75 boards). I really enjoyed the original game, and this Halloween version is a nice treat (no tricks, honest).
Layton Hawkes, Puzzlepops! Trick or Treat – Free
Into The Dead [6/2/15] – You might actually find this one in last year’s Halloween roundup, but I just started playing it again and frankly I don’t care if it’s a repeat. This combines two of my favorite things in mobile games: the infinite runner and zombies. The thing that first attracted me to this game was the fact that it’s a first person perspective and you’re actually running into the crowds of undead, and I still think this is one of the best implementations of that perspective in a mobile game. By default the game has a “The Walking Dead” motif, but if you hook up to Facebook you can get a World War II theme, and a mere 50,000 gold coins nets you the All American Football zombie pack. There are mission sets to complete which will unlock everything from weapons to campaigns, and eventually even open up three new game play modes for you. In addition to a variety of cool weapons you’ll be able to unlock and equip companions that will help take out some of your adversaries. The game offers four different control schemes so you’ll hopefully find one that suits your game play style, and the visuals and sound provide for a downright creepy atmosphere. If you haven’t given this chilling runner a shot yet, there’s no time like the present.
PikPok, Into the Dead – Free
Home – A Unique Horror Adventure [6/19/13] – It’s hard to believe that a pixelated point and click game could be creepy in this day and age, but Home does a decent job of providing a chilling atmosphere. The game recommends both using headphones and turning off the lights, and sadly I only went half way there with the headphones, but there were still moments where I wanted to look behind me to make sure nothing was coming up at me. The best part is, Home is not a gore fest (though there is some 8-bit death to deal with), and there are no gruesome monsters to deal with. Instead, home is a psychological affair. Better yet, not only do you help drive the action, but you seem to be part of the story as well. But, that’s enough of that lest I inadvertently spoil something for you. The controls are simple and nearly perfect for the touch screen: touch the left and right sides of the screen to move in that direction, touch up to look up, and double tap something to interact with it. Occasionally the protagonist might get in the way of a double tap, but that’s rare and easily correctible. When you can pick up or search something you’ll be given a choice of whether or not you wish to do so, and while I have not had the opportunity to play through Home more than once yet, I think the tale actually molds itself around your choices. While some games claim to do that, the way this is one is set up I think it could actually pull it off. The game has been around for a while, which means it actually still runs nicely on my iPad 2, and if you have already played Home maybe it’s time to dig the game out and see if there’s another ending waiting for you.
Benjamin Rivers Inc., Home – A Unique Horror Adventure – $2.99
N.Y. Zombies [7/1/10] – So I know you’re thinking it is bad enough I dig so far back for games, but why not at least cover the sequel to this one? Honestly, I actually like the original better. Or maybe what I should say is that I’m much better at the original. I just never could get the hang of the sequel, so I’m stuck in the past even further, as it were. At any rate, this is a series that focuses on one little section of the apocalyptic world, specifically New York City. As what appears to be the lone survivor that’s actually capable of fighting, it’s up to you to travel from one location to the next, killing the undead and pretending you care enough about the other humans to let them run up to you and actually be safe. Instead of being able to roam freely or even on a somewhat fixed path like many of these games allow, in N.Y. Zombies you stand in one spot, allowing the zombies to come to you. Drag to turn, or double tap the mini-map to quickly swivel towards oncoming foes. Don’t think for a minute that this makes the game easy, however, because all it takes is for you to get behind by one or two zombies to suddenly become overwhelmed and eventually brain food. As you slay the undead and rescue survivors you’ll earn money which allows you to buy new weapons or upgrade old ones. You can repeat a location multiple times to raise your rating and earn a little extra dough, but don’t expect to easily grind your way to all the best weapons. You’ll have to work towards that privilege. There’s also an endless mode where you’re given $1000 and a fresh start every time to see how far you can get. There are definitely newer, shinier zombie adventures to go on, but after six years this one still holds up pretty well.
Heathcote [10/28/15] – Not surprisingly, this was released just in time for Halloween last year. The story revolves around a couple of investigators exploring an asylum that was destroyed by fire 60 years prior, killing all of the residents. The game is all audio, so you’ll want to have a pair of headphones to make the most of it. Heathcote applies an interesting interface that theoretically allows you to play the game without opening your eyes, though if you’re like me and have trouble keeping them shut for any amount of time you might consider a night mask or something to help you out (just make sure no one is around while you are playing). To control the narrative you swipe up, which gives you the list of selections, then you swipe left and right to sift between your choices. When you have one you like you swipe up again to make the selection. The story is interesting and not very long, weighing in at 30 – 60 minutes, I’m guessing depending on how much you decide to explore. The characters are brought to life by Hunter Davis and Robert Dunne, the first apparently an internet personality and the second the actor that plays the young version of Rossi on Criminal Minds. Whatever their pedigree, they do a good job of bringing the story to life. Heathcote is free, and definitely worth checking out if you’re into unique iOS gaming experiences.
Fabulae Obscurae, Inc., Heathcote – Free
Hysteria Project [4/8/09] – It’s possible this was one of the first full motion video games on the App Store, and it’s still one of my favorites. The problem with FMV games is that a lot of the time they don’t really feel like actual games. While there are definitely times that making choices in Hysteria Project breaks up the flow of the video, it’s an acceptable trade off for getting to feel like you have control of the game. What’s more impressive is the fact that at other times you get to interact with the video while it’s still playing, and while the interaction is limited to simply tapping on certain highlighted spots at the right time, it’s a technique that felt fresh at the time and is still rarely used in this type of game. Even more important is the fact that the folks that wrote the game understood the concept of horror. There’s nothing particularly gross or visceral about the game, and it manages to provide more tense moments than most horror movies that have been made in the past 10 years. The video looks a bit dated now, but it still holds up pretty well, and the game is no less playable because of it. The sound is also spot on, especially when it comes to the heavy, nervous breathing of your character. It’s certainly not the perfect game, but after 7 years it continues to rank as one of my favorite creepy iOS experiences. And, the sequel is just as enjoyable of an experience and a nice continuation of the story.
And, to stay in line with the Halloween theme, I thought that instead of listing the last few roundups I’d list the previous Halloween roundups that I’ve written. Sure after four or five years some of the games in these lists might not be available any more, but you never know what gems you might still find among the lot.