10 App Store Games To Watch [8/2/17]

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So as luck would have it my “regular schedule” thing didn’t work out so well.  On the plus side, at least it was less than four months between roundups unlike last time.  Even better, almost everything is from this year, and most of the games actually came out in the last couple of months.  Several of the games were fresh takes on beloved but stale genres, and a couple of them even managed to hook me in after I was about ready to remove them from my device.  It’s getting harder and hard to find games that run for a decent length of time without crashing on my iPad 2, and one or two of these games are borderline in that regards, but you should be able to play any of them without too many frustrations even if you have that old of a device.  Hope you enjoy the selection of games and find something that you didn’t know existed but are glad you discovered.

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Flick – Flicktastic Action Puzzle Game [5/10/17] – After playing the first couple of levels of Flick I was ready to delete the game.  Now I’m 30 levels in and I’m glad I decided to give the game a chance.  The premise is simple – flick a ball and try to get it into one of the areas marked with a numerical value so you can score.  In execution, however, you’ll find that even the most benign looking levels can be tougher than they seem.  Walls will block your path, jetstreams will carry the ball to places you didn’t want it, and spikes will deflate the ball with ease.  Every level presents a new challenge, whether it’s a brand new mechanic or presenting an old mechanic in a slightly different way.  You get a certain number of flicks per level, and your star rating is based on the score you accumulate with those flicks.  Unlike many games, there is no “thanks for playing” on any level: you have to earn at least one star to move to the next level.  On the other hand, if you’re creative you can often get a ball through multiple score zones with one flick, or better yet the same score zone multiple times.  While you can pass a level with only one star, you can always go back and earn the other two for any level, which will serve you well in the end.  As you collect stars you’ll level up and earn new characters which will earn turn help you earn diamonds.  Diamonds are good for both renewing your energy bar when it’s been depleted (yes, it’s one of THOSE games) or buying a few extra flicks when you’re THAT close to beating a level.  The visuals are minimal, and instead of a soundtrack musical notes are played when the ball strikes a surface, which works surprisingly well in this case.  As the name implies, Flick is an action puzzle game and it does the genre proud.

Flick - Flicktastic action puzzle game Timi Koponen, Flick – Flicktastic action puzzle game – Free

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Up&Up – Balloon Puzzler [6/16/17] – So aside from being used for a mini-game to unlock an area in many adventure games, which frankly tends to annoy me anyway, I never really saw much use for the whole sliding block game.  That is, of course, until I started playing Up&Up.  This game manages to take one of the most popular simple game mechanics and turn it into something that is actually interesting and challenging for the right reasons.  Your mission is to rescue a poor balloon from the grasp of someone that could only be the long lost cousin of Sid from the original Toy Story.  In order to do that you’ll have to navigate your inflated friend through almost 100 different levels.  You’ll certainly have to slide your share of blocks along the way, but there are other objects to deal with as well.  And, unlike the typical sliding block game, you don’t have to move the target manually.  The balloon will automatically float towards the top if everything is out if its way.  There are blocks you can break by tapping on them twice, and fans that you can use to gently nudge the balloon around certain obstacles.  Some fans can be turned the other direction and slid around to keep their breeze away when you don’t want it.  There are blocks that can’t be moved at all, as well as blocks that have an angled side so you can create makeshift pathways.  If you truly get stuck there is a hint button, though I don’t like the fact that the hint basically reveals all but the last move of the level.  Not sure of a better way to implement that feature, though.  You can earn up to three stars for each level depending on how few moves you use, and you can always retry a level after you’ve completed it.  The stars are used to buy extra hints or new skins for your balloon, though you can also watch videos to get hints.  The game does offer 11 achievements, but due to the lack of any sort of score there is no leaderboard.  Even if you’re not a fan of sliding block style game play, I recommend giving this one a try.

Up&Up - Balloon Puzzler Kamil Chmiel, Up&Up – Balloon Puzzler – Free

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Dead Orbit [7/8/17] – There are certainly plenty of scrolling shooters on the App Store, but I have as yet to run across any with as much depth as favorites SKyforce Reloaded or Air Attack.  Still, I do enjoy trying a new one every once in a while, and in Dead Orbit I seemed to have found a solid entry in the genre.  There’s nothing evolutionary about the game, but it does manage to push just about all the right buttons.  Like any good scrolling shooter, your main objective is to blow everything up.  While not as prolific as some of its peers, there is the occasional background item to destroy in order to reveal extra money or repair icons.  The levels are filled with thoughtfully designed waves of bad guys rather than randomly generated clumps of attackers, which is always my preferred option.  Conspicuously absent is any sort of power up other than the occasional repair icon, with the game instead relying on constant customization of your ship in order to squeak through to the next level.  While I’m all for random, temporary boosts to your firepower throughout a level, in this case it actually works fine the way it is.  To that end you collect money throughout the level whether you ultimately complete it or not, and after every run you get the option to watch a video and double your earnings from that run.  One thing I really like about the upgrades is that buying bigger and badder weapons actually reduces your speed, so you have to find a balance between offensive capabilities and engine upgrades in order to keep your ship in peak shape.  It would be nice to see the game offer some “standard” things like Game Center achievements or the ability to replay levels you’ve already beaten, but overall Dead Orbit provides a fulfilling and destructive scrolling shooter experience.

Dead Orbit Inlogic Software s.r.o., Dead Orbit – Free

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Hoggy 2 [7/5/17] – Hoggy is a cute purple slug like thing that loves to eat fruit.  Unfortunately his children have been captured by the Moon Men, and it’s up to you to help him get them back.  In your travels you’ll visit many different jars, each containing plenty of fruit, a key and probably a few enemies as well.  Thankfully you can use Hoggy’s ability to stick to surfaces to get around some situations, but you’ll certainly have to use your wits to conquer most of the jars.  Certain blocks can be destroyed by either you or the enemies, so you’ll have to figure out how to steer them in the direction you want them to go.  Some blocks are triggered by jumping on them but safe to run across, while some objects can be walked over but when you jump on them you’ll pass through them.  Special items can transform you or multiply you to help you pass certain parts of a level.  At times the levels can be frustrating, but once you pass them you’ll realize how clever they can be.  There are plenty of levels to play in the main campaign, but if you sign up for a free MakerMall account you can get plenty more to do.  This gives you access to a host of user created levels, and you can also create your own levels to share.  Completing and rating custom levels earns you karma which allows you to level up and unlock new features to add to your levels.  I’m not a huge fan of designing levels on mobile devices, but I love wading through the user offerings to find new levels to beat.  And if all that isn’t enough, there are 9 achievements to earn.

Hoggy 2 Raptisoft, Hoggy 2 – Free

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Cue [d] [12/2/16] – Cue [d] is like a futuristic version of pinball, except instead of trying to knock balls into pockets you’re trying to activate lights scattered around the table before sinking the cue ball into an oversized hole that’s amazingly hard to hit at times.  The game starts off simple enough, but being a respectable puzzle game it doesn’t take long before obstacles start creeping in.  Walls of various ambitions, some of which just sit there while others move back and forth or spin around, are bound to get in your way.  Bumpers give your ball an often unneeded boost of energy, while vortexes just suck the ball right in if it gets too close.  Teleports can be good or bad depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.  And any combination of these elements makes for some interesting and potentially challenging puzzles.  To control the ball you use the fairly common “pull in the opposite direction you want to roll” mechanism, but unlike many of these games you can actually launch the ball again before it has finished rolling, assuming you can get the timing right.  The game offers 100 levels to master, and with a three star rating system based on how many moves it takes to complete a level it could take some time to truly master Cue [d].  There is a leaderboard which I assume is based at least partially on how many stars you’ve earned, but no achievements at this point.  While the Game Center awards don’t offer much incentive, it’s worth the effort just to play through all of the levels.

Cue [D] Spiel Studios, Cue [D] – Free

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Windin [6/22/17] – Like most overcrowded genres, the description of a given match 3 game usually tries to sell you the “brand new mechanics” line.  When it comes to that claim, Windin is the real deal.  As with any match 3 game, the goal is to match at least three of a similar object.  In Windin, however, the board starts out empty.  Each round you place two pieces, each comprised of a stack of two discs.  Based on the direction of the wind as indicated by the fire at the top of the screen, the top disc on each stack will blow over to the adjacent square if it is available.  At that point any line of three or more top level discs of the same color will disappear.  If you have a row of three blue discs but one is covered by a disc of another color you’re out of luck.  The more discs in a single match, the more points you’ll earn.  You also receive bonus points for matching multiple lines on the same level (multi-match) as well as multiple lines at different levels (cascading match).  The game is over when all the squares are filled and you can’t make a match.  As you reach certain point thresholds you’ll unlock power ups like the ability to change the direction of the wind or flip the order of a stack of discs.  Of course if you’re feeling generous you can unlock the power ups early via IAP as well.  The game offers a leaderboard for high scores and 58 achievements through Game Center.  For those of you that have been craving a match 3 game that feels different, Windin is just what the doctor ordered.

Windin no-pact, Windin – Free

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Run & Gun: Banditos [7/10/17] – While the infinite runner craze has died down since the days of Temple Run, there are still plenty of new ones appearing every week.  I really haven’t put too much stock into them lately, but for some reason this one caught my eye.  Turns out it was a great catch.  In traditional Temple Run style you view the world from behind your character, but in this case you’re doing the chasing.  To be more specific, you’re running after a skeleton that’s pulling a wagon full of treasure.  Your job is to collect that treasure while swiping left and right to avoid the pitfalls of the terrain.  It turns out the skeleton has some friends, however, so besides make sure you don’t run into the side of a mountain you’ll also have to tap the skeletons that are waiting to shoot you so that you can dispatch them first.  It’s kind of like the Brave infinite runner except these targets shoot back if you’re not quick enough.  Shooting enough opponents in a row fuels up the parrot gauge, which when activated unleashes a machine gun toting bird on your adversaries for a few seconds.  The game even employs a health meter, so it’s not a simple matter of “one shot and you’re done”.  Of course running into a wall, on the other hand, is pretty permanent.  If you like upgrades you won’t be disappointed either.  There are 7 different aspects of the game, such as health and parrot attack, that can be upgraded multiple levels.  You can also unlock 5 additional banditos, each with two additional skins to unlock (and unlike many games, the skins actually give you unique benefits).  A leaderboard and 13 achievements round out this entertaining Wild West runner.

Run & Gun: BANDITOS Ludus Studio Ltd, Run & Gun: BANDITOS – Free

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Catomic Match 3: Space Cats and Atomic Owls Puzzle [3/15/17] – Catomic is another one of those games where you combine multiple objects to create better objects, with the ultimate goal being to keep the board from filling up for as long as you can.  In this case the objects are cat themed, and you’re trying to help them reach their dream of launching a paw-erful space program.  As you continue to make matches you’ll walk through the cats’ journey from basic flight to advanced interplanetary travel, but be warned: if you fill up the board you’ll have to start again from square one (pun absolutely intended).  Unfortunately, not every piece you can place will help you on your quest.  Mice move get in the way unless you capture them using a magic hat or get enough of them in a row to form an owl.  Raccoons are also mobile annoyances, but they will consume the milk bottles you leave on the playing field.  On the other hand, gems will act as a wild card when matching, and if there are not enough similar pieces to form a match they will turn into a piggy bank that earns you some money.  Coins can be used to buy a certain piece when you need it the most, while goldfish crackers give you the chance to raise the percentage probability that a certain piece will show up on the board.  Unfortunately crackers are hard to come by unless you spend some IAP, but the cool thing about upgrading pieces is that if the percentage probability of a piece reaches 100%, you won’t see that piece pop up to be placed any more.  This way you can start eliminating basic pieces from play.  Through Game Center there is a leaderboard and 37 achievements to earn, which should keep you busy until you figure out the key to sending the cats into space.

Catomic Match 3: Space Cats and Atomic Owls Puzzle On5, Catomic Match 3: Space Cats and Atomic Owls Puzzle – Free

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Pauli’s Adventure Island: An Epic Bunny Platformer [7/18/17] – The worst thing I can say about this game is that it doesn’t really bring anything new to the 2D platform game genre.  That being said, if you’re a fan of such games this does just about everything right.  The levels are well designed, the controls are spot on, and the challenge is presented on multiple levels to entice a wide variety of players.  Younger kids or those who aren’t quite as skilled at such games can concentrate on simply getting to the end of each level to unlock the next.  If you’re more adventurous and have beaten every Mario game around you can collect all three clovers on each level.  The true completeist can work towards getting a gold crown, which requires you to beat a certain time on the level.  Thankfully you can do all of these things independently, and when it comes to collecting the clovers you only need to go back and get the ones you missed from previous passes at completing the levels.  Each level has a way point so you won’t necessarily have to start from the beginning, and you can have up to three hits before losing a life thanks to hearts you pick up throughout the level.  Finally there are stars to collect, and every 100 stars collected earns you an extra life.  It would be kind of cool to be able to adjust the number of hearts, lives and waypoints available (to make the game harder, of course), but for a casual gamer like myself I can live with the way things are.  The game is comprised of 4 worlds, each containing 8 levels.  There are also 18 achievements to earn.  It might not be the longest adventure out there, especially for extremely talented gamers, but it’s entertaining and well polished for a free offering.  Plus, I always like to give a thumbs up to a family friendly game that doesn’t bore me.

Pauli's Adventure Island: An Epic Bunny Platformer Gemma Rutten, Pauli’s Adventure Island: An Epic Bunny Platformer – Free

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Strategy Legion – Tile Knights [5/20/15] – I had to sneak one onto this list that wasn’t from this year or I wouldn’t feel like I was doing my job!  Strategy Legion is one of those games where you build up an army of tiled warriors and then traipse through a series of relatively similar levels to strengthen your heroes and defeat the ultimate bad guy.  I have to admit that it seems like such a game would get boring after a while given the linear nature of game play, but oddly enough I rather enjoy this particular style of game play.    It’s basically an RPG / strategy lite where you don’t have to worry about any real story progression, which works great for a mobile game that you might play for just a few minutes at a time here or there.  The game is set loosely in the folklore of King Arthur, and you can choose one of the four main characters from that tale as your group leader.  Each has his own strengths, weaknesses and starting army.  One neat feature is that you build up your ranks by buying opponents off of the field instead of killing them.  You do have to keep an eye on your money, though, because while each leader has his own troops the money and gems you collect are shared between any games you have going (you can have one for each leader at the same time).  In between battles you can visit camp to heal wounded comrades, buy and upgrade equipment, or change the passive skill of your hero.  There’s also a shop where you can buy special units or purchase gems and coins via IAP.  According to the iTunes description there are more than 400 levels to conquer, and with four heroes and a myriad of combinations with which to construct your army you could be playing this game for a long time.

Strategy Legion - Tile Knights Kunrong Wang, Strategy Legion – Tile Knights – 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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