10 App Store Games To Watch [12/21/16]

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Well folks, another year is almost over, and this is officially my last roundup for 2016. It’s been a great year for iOS games, and I look forward to seeing what the New Year has to offer as well. Hopefully you’ve gotten at least a few hidden gems out of everything I’ve shared over the past year, and my sincerest desire is that you’ve thanked at least one indie developer for all the work they’ve put into providing you with some decent entertainment. I think this current collection of games is probably one of the most diverse that I’ve had in a while, and every game here is worth checking out before 2017 rolls in. Have a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and I can’t wait to start rounding up iOS games for you in 2017!

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Where Shadows Slumber Demo [11/6/16] – As the name implies this is only a demo, with a mere seven levels to test out. Even if you are not a great gamer it probably won’t take you more than 10 to 15 minutes to complete, and for some it might take you less time to finish than it does to download. For that matter, the full version of the game is not actually available yet. I’ve actually included this entry so that hopefully you’ll check it out and then encourage the developer to actually finish When Shadows Slumber. You control a little guy with a lantern that must navigate a series of worlds to find redemption for something. You’ll notice right off the bat that this game has some wicked pixel graphics that mange to have a lot of depth through the use of shading rather than complex details. The sound effects are pretty awesome as well. As for the game play, it’s really one of those things that you have to experience to appreciate. The levels are alive in a sense, as they are not only manipulated by you flipping switches or dragging objects with your fingers, but they morph as the shadows wind their way through them. One minute there’s a gap in a bridge and the next it’s whole. Just by moving around a pillar you can cause hallways to appear or disappear. In an era where so much of the App Store is copycat material Where Shadows Slumber provides some much needed originality, and I really hope the developer is able to see this project through (and that some other unscrupulous developer doesn’t come along and steal the idea).

Where Shadows Slumber Demo Game Revenant, Where Shadows Slumber Demo – Free

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Puzzle of Magic [11/3/16] – Speaking of copycat games, some might take a glance at this and assume that it’s just another match 3 / RPG mash-up. While that might be true on the surface, it has enough going for it that it should intrigue even those that feel the genre has gotten a bit stagnant. You are actually the main hero of this story, though you will actually have the ability to summon helper heroes throughout the game… at least once you’ve rescued them. You have three styles of attack – sword, bow and staff – and if you summon a hero they will get the chance to attack as well given the right circumstances. You also have to make sure you periodically refill your health so that you don’t die, although you’re out of luck when it comes to your summoned heroes as there is no way to regenerate their health. Finally you’ll have to collect mana which is used to summon heroes and to activate their abilities once you’ve called them onto the playing field. Each level has an objective, and if you complete that objective you’ll be rewarded with somewhere between 1 to 3 stars if you score is good enough. These stars are used to open chests which earn you diamonds, coins and purple stars, which can be used in different combinations to upgrade your heroes. There are some interesting level designs, and in some cases you might have to beat multiple boards to complete a level or even have to deal with a scrolling playing field. There are plenty of other nifty little quirks to this game as well, but you’ll just have to play it to find out what those are.

Puzzle of Magic Polarbear Interactive, Puzzle of Magic – Free

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Disaster Will Strike [9/28/16] – The objective of this game is simple: destroy all of the dinosaur eggs on each level. It doesn’t matter if you crush them or get them to fall into a pit, as long as they don’t survive. There are no slingshots or cannons or anything of the sort to be found in Disaster Will Strike, though. Instead you’ll get to use a selection of natural disasters to do your dirty deeds for you. Select the earthquake icon and then pick a platform to shake up. Choose to unleash a tornado and pick the direction you want it to travel. Use the landslide to take out a key section of a platform and cause some havoc. These are just the first few toys you get to play with in this game. After the first few levels you’ll get multiple disasters to unleash on each level, and it’s up to you to determine the best order to accomplish total destruction, taking into account other items already on the screen that can help you in your quest. There appear to be six disasters and more than 80 levels at this point, with the promise of more to come. Game Center offers a leaderboard as well as 18 achievements, and you can buy different outfits for your eggs using coins earned by watching videos or purchased via IAP. The levels seem well designed so far, and it’s always a pleasure finding a decent physics based puzzle game that doesn’t involve launching fowl at stuff.

Disaster Will Strike Yury Koshechkin, Disaster Will Strike – Free

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Prehistoric Blocks [10/29/16] – I suppose you could define this as a bubble popper, but it’s certainly unique within the genre. Instead of matching colors in what are often fun and clever designs, the board in Prehistoric Blocks contains a smattering of bricks with numbers on them. The number represents how many times you have to hit that block in order for it to go away, assuming you’re using the standard ball that only does one point of damage for each hit. Each time you launch a ball the bricks advance a row, and if one of them reaches the bottom of the screen the game is over. Power ups include the ability to freeze the board for a turn, a bomb that destroys everything near it and an item that will push everything back up five rows. You can also collect multiple shots which are cumulative – so if you play one game long enough you can easily rack up 10 – 15 balls per shot. Then there are the weapons, which you can purchase with the stars you collect during game play. These objects replace your standard ball and do anywhere from 2 to 10 damage per hit. What’s really nice is that you can purchase and switch between weapons at any point throughout the game, and since your ammunition is limited on anything beyond the standard weapon this is an awesome feature. There are also totems, but you need to collect 10 pieces to activate one and so far I haven’t been able to acquire a single one. This task could be just a bit easier given that this is supposed to be a causal game. There is also a ranking system, but you have to log in to some custom system for that and so far the login button has done nothing for me. Ideally they’ll switch that over to Game Center some day. If you like bubble shooters but feel like they’re all basically the same these days, you’ll definitely want to check out Prehistoric Blocks.

Prehistoric Blocks Tomasz Fiema, Prehistoric Blocks – Free

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Alice and The Reformatory For Witches [11/13/16] – This is old school adventure gaming at its best. Much like the game Tormentum that I reviewed last time, this very much reminds me of a Sierra Online game from when they were king of the adventure game world. With its quirky characters and lighter atmosphere, even in the midst of what some might say is a bleak situation, Reformatory For Witches is definitely much closer in tone to the classics like King’s Quest and its brethren. There are only about 8 different scenes to explore, but there is enough to do in each location to add up to over an hour of game play. The puzzles were pretty straightforward for the most part, occasionally challenging you to think outside the box. If you ever did truly get stuck there was a nice online walkthrough that would take you directly to the page relating to the screen you were actually stuck on. Note that the walkthrough is online, so be prepared to be connected should you need to access it. I did run into a couple of minor bugs, and the game did perform a bit sluggishly on my iPad 2, but I was able to complete it without any real issues. I would highly recommend checking it out, and there is also a sequel that you can buy to help support the developers’ work (I’ll link to both below).

Alice and The Reformatory for Witches Bispiral, s.r.o., Alice and The Reformatory for Witches – Free
Alice and The Magical Dragons Bispiral, s.r.o., Alice and The Magical Dragons – $1.99

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Cubed Rally World [11/9/16] – The next installment in the Cubed franchise is here, and it’s a blast. Much like the highly lauded Pokemon you’ve gotta catch ‘em all, in this case the “all” being 34 different types of vehicles. It’s worth your while to collect as many as you can, because the more cars you have available the longer you can race in one session, assuming you can avoid all the obstacles the courses throw at you. You get to pick which vehicle you start with, but every so often during the race you’ll cross a finish line and switch to another vehicle. It’s a cool feature that I don’t think I’ve seen in a casual game like this before. There are 13 different environments to discover as you unlock the different cars, but rather than just provide visual differences each theme has unique obstacles as well. You’ll have to be clever to slide under the feet of the stomping T-Rex and be cautious when navigating the cow conga line. And if you’re not into those sometimes finicky touch screen racers with odd steering controls, have no fear. In Cubed Rally World you simply tap left or right to switch lanes, so it couldn’t be easier to learn. Mastering the race, on the other hand, is another story. The game does offer a leaderboard via Game Center, though at this point there are no achievements to earn. If you’re looking for a deep, technical racing experience move on, but for a “few minutes here or there” which might actually turn into hours if you’re not careful, look no further.

Cubed Rally World Jared Bailey, Cubed Rally World – Free

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Order’s Up [11/23/16] – I’ve played a lot of time management games since I’ve owned mobile devices, though some might argue this really isn’t one, so we’ll call it “time management lite”. Regardless of how you categorize the game, the basic tenet is that you have to serve every customer as they come in. And, unlike most restaurant themed games where you have to seat them, take their order, blah, blah, blah… in Order’s Up you actually have to fill their order before they reach the counter. As each patron enters your restaurant they’ll tell you what they want in a cartoon style bubble, and you have to complete their request using the buttons at the bottom of the screen. Just make sure you give them everything in the order they ask for it, or the customer will be dissatisfied and it’s back to the drawing board for you. Yep, this game only allots one mistake per game, so try to hold out as long as you can before fat fingering something. You start with a meager establishment and can unlock four more locations using the money you earn from all the satisfied customers. The game has 10 achievements to earn and offers 1 leaderboard based on the single highest score you’ve received playing a game. The one thing I’d love to see is the ability to buy some upgrades for each of your shops, but I suppose the lack of such amenities is one of the ways this game distinguishes itself form “hardcore” time management sims.

Order's Up Appsolute Games LLC, Order’s Up – Free

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Hovercrash [12/8/16] – This is a minimalist track racer in most ways, yet I find it oddly compelling. Rather than fancy 3D visuals the game uses nice looking low-poly objects, giving the game more of an extremely supped up Tron (1983 version) feel. All you have to do is swipe left and right to move your vehicle along the track, being sure to avoid the myriad of obstacles the game will throw your way. I like the fact that you’ll often have to make a split second decision to adjust your position as most of the obstacles are in constant motion as well. I also find it intriguing that if you lift your finger from the device your multiplier will increase more quickly, forcing you to decide whether you want maintain total control over your vehicle or be able to earn a high score more rapidly. Occasionally you’ll run across coins along the track, and you can also get some via periodic bonuses. These coins are used to unlock new cars, though sadly the cars have no impact on game play. There is one leaderboard based on your highest single score, and no achievements at this point. It would be great if the cars you unlocked actually added some value to the game, because right now collecting coins is a bit too tedious for what amounts to a functionless but flashy new exterior. Otherwise, for the lack of bells and whistles this game has to offer it’s still pretty entertaining.

Hovercrash Kiemura Oy, Hovercrash – Free

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Reminiscent [5/25/16] – The concept of “real time adventuring” seems to be really popular lately. The gist of it is that you somehow communicate with the main character in the game, giving them direction on how to go every now and again and then waiting to hear back on their progress, usually via notifications. The biggest problem is that the game play is usually limited to picking one of two options, which means the story has to be interesting enough to overshadow the lack of game mechanics. In the case of Reminiscent you interact with a man who has lost his memories and is trapped in the bottom of a deep mine. While the premise is fairly common, location notwithstanding, I like the fact that you are actually conversing via cell phone and that this is explained to you, unlike some of these adventures where it’s never really clear how the protagonist got hold of you in the first place. The game has several endings, most of which are less than desirable. Thankfully when you make an ultimately wrong choice you can rewind to any decision tree so you don’t have to play the whole adventure over again. And, while you don’t really know the story since your confidant has lost his memory, his end of the banter is interesting enough that it keeps you wanting to know what exactly did happen. There is plenty of this style of game to choose from right now, and this is one of the more enjoyable ones I’ve played so far.

Reminiscent Alexander Lomakin, Reminiscent – Free

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Loop! [12/19/16] – A quick glance at the developer’s catalog and you might wonder where this one came from, since everything else in their library is basically related to math. Regardless of the game’s genesis it’s a great casual experience that can be played with one hand and will become addictive without much effort. You control a small spaceship and you have to travel around a hollow circle, collecting pills and trying to avoid the filled circles that pop up rather frequently. All you do is tap the screen to change between the inside and outside of the hollow circle, and the game pretty much manages itself the rest of the way. If the filled circles turn green either via a power up or when there is one in each lane so that you have no way to pass you can actually run into them, and you can also take out a filled red circle if you change lanes and hit the circle from underneath. If you strike a red circle from behind, however, the game is over. You’ll earn credits while you play and if you decide to watch videos, and those credits can be used to upgrade various elements of game play. There are 10 achievements to earn in Game Center, as well as three different leaderboards to place on. Some background music would be nice, but otherwise this is a minimalist casual game that’s sure to please.

Loop! frogameleon Ltd, Loop! – Free

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Sneezies HD [4/22/10] – It’s been a while since I’ve done a “retro relook”, and I thought for my last roundup of 2016 I’d go way back and take a look at one of the first iOS games I ever reviewed. Full disclosure, however – this technically isn’t the version of Sneezies I reviewed. That honor goes to the original Sneezies, which is an iPhone only version of the game. Anyway, I know chain reaction games are a dime a dozen on the App Store these days, but Sneezies is still one of my favorites. Each screen is filled with plenty of cute little furry creatures floating in bubbles and when you tap on one of them it will sneeze and the bubble will burst. This starts what should be a rather gross chain of snot cloud induced achoo-ing that hopefully results in you achieving your goal for the given round. In classic mode you’ll progress through many stages, each of which requires you to pop an increasingly larger number of critter bubbles with just one touch. Score EX mode has the same goal, but there are only 10 rounds and you’re trying to get the best accumulated total between those ten rounds. Challenge mode starts each round with 5 taps, and your job is to reach a certain score once all of your taps are extinguished. Thankfully if you get a high enough percentage of critters with one tap you’ll earn an extra one. Finally there is Free Popping mode, which incorporates some aspects of the other modes but doesn’t strictly enforce anything. This mode is more for the sake of keeping little kids occupied than anything else. There are leaderboards for the three non-Free Popping modes, as well as 38 achievements to earn. It’s a great casual game for both kids and adults alike, and since each game play mode has three save slots you can have multiple players engaged without stepping on each other’s toes.

Sneezies HD Retro Dreamer, Sneezies HD – $2.99

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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