TouchMyApps All Things iPhone and iPad for those who like to Touch. iOS App reviews, News, New Apps, Price Drops and App Gone Free Wed, 02 Dec 2015 04:55:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 10 App Store Games To Watch [12/1/15] Wed, 02 Dec 2015 04:55:55 +0000 So it’s two down and one to go in terms of the big end of year holidays (I’m not counting New Year’s since the holiday is technically January 1st).  If you’re already planning out your Christmas gifts, just buy all your friends that have iOS devices iTunes cards and point them to my App Store … Read more]]>


So it’s two down and one to go in terms of the big end of year holidays (I’m not counting New Year’s since the holiday is technically January 1st).  If you’re already planning out your Christmas gifts, just buy all your friends that have iOS devices iTunes cards and point them to my App Store roundups.  It’s a win-win situation.  And if you don’t celebrate Christmas, get yourself an iTunes card and go nuts!  Of course most of the games I cover tend to be of the free variety, but maybe you could use this season of charity to support a struggling indie dev by purchasing some IAP in one of the free titles.  No matter how you look at it, just make it all about the games.


Paper Town: Draw, Paint and Sketch an Empire! [10/9/15] – Normally if a game requires an account (especially if it’s for a proprietary service so I don’t already have a login) my first instinct is to delete it.  This one intrigued me conceptually, however.  At a fringe level it’s kind of like the old classic M.U.L.E., except instead of collecting energy or growing crops to build up your empire you draw pictures.  You start out with 1,000 coins, and for 300 you can have your very own plot of land.  On that land you can draw one or more pictures to put on display, and you can even put a price on them if you’d like.  Of course if you’re not that great of an artist you might have troubles pushing your merchandise, but thankfully you can also earn coins if someone feels pity on you and “likes” your drawings or if you “like” other people’s drawings.  Yep, now we’ve drifted into Facebook territory.  There are definitely some issues with the game as it stands, like the archaic drawing tools or the sluggish response as you try to scroll through the already developing landscape, but hopefully as people start to support the game by drawing a bunch of cool stuff the developers will continue to refine the program and make it something special.  To reference one of my favorite animated films, this could very well be a “diamond in the rough”.

Paper Town: Draw, Paint and Sketch an Empire! chun lim, Paper Town: Draw, Paint and Sketch an Empire! – Free


Toad Rider [2/4/14] – I’m not really sure how I managed to miss this one when it first came out, but I’m glad I finally got the chance to play it now.  This is clearly a homage to one of the best parts of the classic console game Battle Toads, and they’ve not only managed to capture the excitement of Rare’s epic platform game but they’ve actually upped the ante a bit.  In the vein of the modern infinite runner they’ve added power ups that you can upgrade, initial boosts to advance you through the beginning levels quicker, additional characters and jetskis you can unlock and plenty of missions to complete.  You’ll have to collect coins for most upgrades and unlocks, though the ultimate tier of unlocks for characters and jetskis requires gems, and I’m not sure if you can get those outside of buying them via IAP.  For every three missions you complete you’ll boost your score multiplier, which will help you advance on the score based leaderboard.  There are also two other leaderboards to rank on.  I doubt will be seeing Battle Toads show up on the iPad any time soon, but this is a pretty decent substitute.

Toad Rider Abdullah El-Sayed, Toad Rider – Free


Crush The Tower [10/18/15] – After all this time I still don’t really get the appeal of these games where you have to continually break down some object in the center of the screen by tapping the left or right sides of the screen to swing something at it.  Occasionally one of this type of game comes along that actually manages to be interesting, however, and Crush The Tower is just such a game.  The concept is still basically the same, with the object in the center being a tower littered with ledges, goblins and other things that will try and take you out.  You start out with two hearts, which means you can take two hits before you die, at least in the first 100 floors.  For each 100 floors getting hit takes one more heart, so floors 101-200 take away two hearts, etc.  You’re also up against a clock, so you have to be able to decide rather quickly whether you want to tap to the left or right.  In this variant of the idea there are coins you can collect that can be used to upgrade power ups and armor.  Power ups do things like make potions last longer, give you better multipliers and slow down the clock.  On the other hand, armor increases your hearts, adds more time back to the clock when you swing your weapon, and puts more coins on the board.  There are missions, quests and achievements to complete which are all interlinked, but I just haven’t taken the time to sort it all out yet.  There’s also a leaderboard chronicling the highest floor each player has made it to.

Crush The Tower Michiel Kamerman, Crush The Tower – Free


Sky Pets [10/8/15] – If you ever thought that your pets should do something more than just sit on the couch and act like they own the place, now’s your chance to make them useful.  That’s assuming, of course, that you define “useful” as collecting large amounts of coins and gems for no apparent reason.  At least you get 36 levels across 4 different worlds to test your applied pet theories across.  The game looks like it was designed primarily for kids, but don’t let the exterior fool you.  Should you happen to be the kind of person that obsesses over getting every gem on every level, you’ll find yourself coming back to these levels again and again until you conquer each one.  There are times where that is not so difficult, but there are also occasions where timing can be quite the issue.  One interesting factor is that the levels don’t reset themselves after each attempt, at least as far as obstacles go, so when exactly you need to “hit the brakes” might be slightly different each time through.  There are 4 stock pets you can choose to play with, or you can create your own with a fairly simple to use editor.  Sky Pets currently offers one leaderboard, but at this time there are no achievements.  It would be nice if there was something to use all the coins on that you collect, and multiple profiles would be good since this game will certainly appeal to both casual adult players and kids.  Overall it’s a cute, nicely done little game.

Sky Pets Subliminal, Sky Pets – $1.99


Devil Eater [11/7/15] – Devil Eater is kind of an odd name for a somewhat quirky game.  It just happens that the game is also rather entertaining.  It’s what I’d call a casual shooter, because instead of having to worry about moving your character around, or even aiming for that matter, you simply tap a button to shoot and another one to block.  If you block at just the right moment you’ll even launch a counter attack that appears to hurt multiple enemies.  You also earn a special attack each time you have to reload which gets activated with another button.  This special attack does a nice amount of damage as well.  When you slay demons you’ll earn coins, and you can also get loot from completing achievements.  This money can be used to buy new guns as well as increase the attack, speed and defense attributes of your hero.  In addition to all the in-game achievements for earning gold there are 11 achievements and a leaderboard via Game Center.  The visuals are extremely well done, and there are some really nice character designs in this game.  If you need total control over your shooters you might not appreciate Devil Eater, but if you like causal wanton destruction this is just the game for you.

Devil Eater LoadComplete, Devil Eater – Free


Monkeyrama [10/14/15] – Monkeyrama is kind of like an arcade version of Jenga.  Except once you knock a block out you don’t put it back.  And, the arrangements you are attempting to knock down are often much more complex than a rectangular tower.  Oh, and did I mention the monkey heads?  There are lots of monkey heads to be tossed around here.  The game currently has 4 episodes with 28 levels each, and your goal is to score as many points as you can per level.  Of course you do have to meet a minimum score to beat a level, and in some cases you’ll barely squeeze that number out.  To aid you in your quest you’ll have a selection of monkey heads at your disposal.  There’s the normal head, the explosive head, the heavy head and my favorite – the baby head.  This last one sucks on the blocks it attaches to and tries to pull them over.  You’ll get a combination of one or of these heads on each level, with a certain number of each kind at your disposal.  Thanks to the kindness of the developers, you can switch between them at any time to get the optimal combination for your strategy.  Some levels are pretty simple, others are deceptively simple and then there are ones that are just deceptive.  In the end it’s a good balance that will keep you busy but for the most part not frustrate you.  One thing that I do find a bit interesting and oddly refreshing is that your satisfaction comes strictly from doing the best you can, because there is no integration with Game Center or other social media at this point.  If you’re tired of all the block bashing physics games looking like Angry Birds, Monkeyrama is a nice alternative.

Monkeyrama Tuomas Erikoinen, Monkeyrama – $0.99


Dulp: Color Wheel Blast [11/12/15] – This is a pretty basic game – tap to release a ball and take out a like colored part of the spinning ring(s).  Knock out the entire ring and you win.  There’s no filler here, so every shot counts.  You can’t shoot past the ring, but you can hit the wrong color or the inside of the ring, either of which earns you a game over.  Dulp seems fairly simple at first, but it doesn’t take long before the levels become challenging.  You might have multiple rings that are spinning in opposite directions or worse yet at different speeds.  The rings might change direction or speed during game play, which is usually triggered when you tap the screen and not once the ball hits something.  That can make a big difference in how you time things.  The game is definitely all about timing, and thankfully it doesn’t complicate the situation by actually adding a timer into the mix.  I’m not sure how many levels there are, as I’m currently stuck on level 21 and refuse to hit the Skip button, but based on the leaderboard there’s at least 147.  Dulp doesn’t have much depth to it, but it does provide a decent amount of challenge for a casual game.

Dulp: Color Wheel Blast Nexx Studio, Dulp: Color Wheel Blast – Free


Puzzle Forge 2 [12/16/14] – This is an interesting variation of the 2048 genre.  You are the blacksmith at the local weapons shop for wayward adventurers.  To create weapons you’ll need to lay down ore and then place moulds for various parts of the weapons.  When you have three moulds in a row that form a particular weapon they will merge into that weapon, and the spots that were occupied by the molds will become hot so that you can’t use them again right away.  Like most time management games you’ll have to make every customer that comes in each day happy by providing them with weapons, but unlike other games in this genre when you disappoint a customer you lose a heart, and when all hearts are gone you start over from day one.  On the plus side, as you build up your reputation and serve customers well you’ll level up and learn new skills, and all of that stays with you for every subsequent game.  In addition to your forge there’s a bank where you can buy coins and soul stones via IAP, an academy where you can spend the soul stones to buy new skills, and shop where you can buy items to help you forge weapons and an archive (ie: library) that lists all the weapons you’ve forged and adventurers you’ve met.  Not only is this a neat use of the 2048 paradigm but it’s a cool time management sim that gets you out of the realm of baking and sandwich making.

Puzzle Forge 2 Tuesday Quest, Puzzle Forge 2 – Free


Do Not Pop! – Endless Bubbly Arcade Avoider [11/5/15] – I’m not sure when I became such a causal games addict, but it’s amazing how quickly some of these games capture my attention any more.  I’ve seen many of these one room “dodge the walls” style games on the app store, and this is the first one I’ve really taken for a spin.  I don’t know if it’s the cute avatars or the cool bubble that leaves a trail as you float around the stage, but something about Do Not Pop manages to keep me engaged every time I start the game up.  There’s really not much to the game: tap left or right to move the bubble around the screen, avoiding the walls and floating spike balls while collecting coins.  Honestly, though, you’ll get most of your coins either from the free present option that opens up every once in a while or from watching videos (or, if you’re feeling generous, via IAP).  The coins are used to buy new avatars, which cost between 1000 and 2000 coins apiece.  The game offers 18 achievements through Game Center, as well as a leaderboard that actually hasn’t been hacked yet.  I’m going to guess there’s nothing here that other games of this type don’t offer, but as my first foray into this sub-genre of gaming, I found Do Not Pop worth spending some time with.

Do Not Pop! - Endless Bubbly Arcade Avoider CV Racoongames, Do Not Pop! – Endless Bubbly Arcade Avoider – Free


Power my Robot [10/19/15] – In case the name didn’t seem self explanatory enough, this is a game about powering up robots.  There are three robots, in fact, each with 20 different power receptacles that need juice.  In order to provide them with energy you’ll need to launch balls into their inner workings, which conveniently enough turn into batteries when they hit the right area.  In the mean time you’ll need to navigate around plenty of obstacles that appear to have no other function than to make your life difficult.  Moving walls, transport tubes and air pockets will redirect your balls in sometimes undesired directions.  Items like lasers will simply destroy them.  You have a certain number of balls with which to complete each level, and enough of them have to make it to the battery compartment to fill it.  Each level has three stars to collect, and while you don’t need all of them (or any of them, for that matter) to complete a level, you do need to get a certain number of stars to unlock the next robot.  Once you launch a ball you can tilt the device to help guide it, sort of like a labyrinth style game.  Unfortunately you don’t have 360 degree freedom, so if you’re not careful a ball can get stuck or stop moving, at which point it’s on to the next one.  The levels get progressively harder with each robot, and design wise this is one of those games that’s both challenging and fair.

Power my Robot Warp Lemon, Power my Robot – 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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Lost Souls: Timeless Fables Collector’s Edition HD in Review – Didn’t Really Get Lost In This One Fri, 13 Nov 2015 13:02:34 +0000 The concept of entering paintings or books in order to travel to another world is certainly not a new concept, even in the realm of games.  The first title in the Lost Souls series covered the painting side of the subject, and now Lost Souls: Timeless Fables handles the book side of things.  I didn’t … Read more]]>


The concept of entering paintings or books in order to travel to another world is certainly not a new concept, even in the realm of games.  The first title in the Lost Souls series covered the painting side of the subject, and now Lost Souls: Timeless Fables handles the book side of things.  I didn’t get the chance to play Enchanted Paintings, but I have played other games with a similar theme, and to be perfectly honest Timeless Fables felt a bit flat in comparison to those other titles.  It’s not a bad game, mind you, but as I’ve said before, in such an over-saturated market as the hidden object genre being mediocre is almost worse than being bad, because at least a bad game still has the potential of standing out from the crowd.


In Timeless Fables you must help a nondescript protagonist named Bella rescue her brother, who somehow got sucked into a magical book.  There’s never really a good explanation as to why he ends up in the book or what the significance of the other books that you must enter are, but I suppose it’s really not necessary in order to play the game.  It sure would have made it more interesting, though.  On top of that, since the stories you have to take part in are based on actual classics, it helps if you are familiar with the source material before taking on this quest.  I had an extremely cursory knowledge of most of the tales and knew nothing about the Call Of Cthulhu, so while I found the journey somewhat interesting, I didn’t truly appreciate what was going on in each of the books.  I assume that at least some of the information correlates to the books’ actual literary counterparts.

The game is standard hidden object fare.  Each of the five books requires you to complete a quest for the first person you meet, which means you’ll have to traipse through several locations gathering items to solve object puzzles, playing mini-games to unlock certain items or areas and searching through rooms full of hidden objects to find some of the goodies required to solve the object based puzzles.  One thing I did like was that each of the books was broken down into several major areas denoted on a “world” map, each marked with the number of tasks left to complete in that area.  Of course it wasn’t always obvious when there was still something left to do in a particular area, and it often took several random taps before the game would tell you that there were no tasks available in your current location.  There were plenty of object based puzzles, and if you got stuck on one you just had to try using everything in your inventory until something worked or you realized you didn’t have what you needed yet.


The hidden object scenes were broken down into two types: one that provided you with a list of items to search for and another that gave you pictures of the objects you needed to hunt down.  The former usually had a couple of items that were truly hidden, but instead of having to use one object in the scene with another in order to reveal the hidden item you just had to tap something to move it out of the way.  The pictures could sometimes be difficult because the object would be positioned differently than what the picture showed, and sometimes so little of the object was showing behind the clutter that it was easy to miss.  All trivial things, mind you, but issues that add up when they occur on every hidden object scene.  The mini-games were mostly variants of ones that you’ve played before, though occasionally presented in such a way that they were enjoyable.  There were a couple of times that I found myself scratching my head for a bit because the help for a particular mini-game left out a crucial detail necessary for understanding how to complete it, but I never had to skip any of them.

To rescue your brother you have to play through the first four stories: Call Of Cthulhu, Robinson Crusoe, Jack The Ripper and The Three Musketeers.  There are a couple of things that I find odd about the whole setup of the game in this regards.  First, the amulet that unlocks the book your brother is trapped in gets split into five parts, one of which enters each book, so I’m not sure why you don’t have to complete all five books before your brother is safe.  Second, the final tale, The Titanic, really has nothing to do with the overarching story other than the fact that it’s the same protagonist.  Finally, since the only thing that ties the other four books together is the fact that you retrieve a piece of the amulet from each of them, I’m not really sure why you couldn’t play the books in any order that you wanted to.


As this is a collector’s edition you would expect there to be some extra goodies in the package.  Of course one of the bonuses is the Titanic adventure, though usually the supplemental adventures tie into the main story better than this one did.  For this “deluxe” edition the main extras are a few screen shots that you can use as wallpapers and a jukebox where you can listen to the various tracks from the game.  One menu item I found interesting was the Trophies option, which takes you to a room filled with objects from the various games that you can purchase using coins you find hidden throughout the game.  These trophies are profile specific, so I don’t know what real significance they have, but at least it gives you something to do with what otherwise becomes a tedious exercise in trying to spot all these tiny coins on each level.  The game also has 17 achievements which get reset for each profile but whose corresponding achievement in Game Center only gets set for the first person to complete it.

At least the game looks pretty good.  There were a couple of times where the hidden object scenes seemed a bit dark, but overall everything was pretty sharp and nicely detailed.  Most scenes had at least one or two animated features, giving some sense of a living world that you were exploring.  Sound effects, on the other hand, were grossly underused.  There were plenty of times where something as simple as rushing water or air slowly leaking from a pipe would have done wonders towards enhancing the ambiance of a room but nothing like that was really employed.  They did have voiceovers for the various characters which were sort of a mixed bag, some of them feeling spot on and others simply missing the mark.  The music wasn’t bad when listening to it through the extras menu, but in the course of the game it basically got lost and in the end was pretty much forgettable.


Timeless Fables falls under the category of “I wouldn’t avoid it, but there are plenty of better hidden object games to play first”.  From a lesser publisher or a developer with no titles under their belt I might be more forgiving, but G5 usually selects the best of the bunch and I know Fenomen Games has at least developed one other Lost Souls game, if not a few other titles as well.  I just don’t think this was quite up to the standards of other recent G5 releases.


App Summary
Title: Lost Souls: Timeless Fables, Collector’s Edition HD Developer: G5 Entertainment
Reviewed Ver: 1.0.4 Min OS Req:  iOS 6.0
Price: Free App Size: 1023.20MB
  • Well balanced game play
  • Nice visuals
  • Story felt flat
  • Lack of sound effects
  • Music was forgettable


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Dub Dash in Review: The Beat Rolls On Sat, 07 Nov 2015 03:32:19 +0000 At one point after I received a copy of Dub Dash to look at the developer asked for an update on my review, and I told them I wanted to wait until I had finished at least one level before writing something about the game.  After I don’t know how many times playing the first … Read more]]>


At one point after I received a copy of Dub Dash to look at the developer asked for an update on my review, and I told them I wanted to wait until I had finished at least one level before writing something about the game.  After I don’t know how many times playing the first three levels I was ready to concede and write the review even though I hadn’t completed a single one yet, and then wouldn’t you know it – I actually managed to complete the first level!  If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years when it comes to rhythm based games it’s that I’m not real good at them, so this was an exciting achievement for me.  Thankfully it was born from a desire to actually accomplish something in the game, and not simply because I “had to” for the sake of this review.  To me that’s the best sign of a game being worth putting some effort into.


Dub Dash has no complicated plot or deep meaning.  It’s simply a game about trying to get from point A to point B by following the beat.  The majority of the game is spent tapping the left or right sides of the screen to move in the appropriate direction, though sometimes that just means “swerving” to the left or right while at other times it actually rotates your avatar 90 degrees.  It’s basically the same game play, but the shifting perspectives and slight modifications in the mechanics (a hard turn versus a drift, for example) make the journey constantly feel fresh.  Occasionally you’ll even go into “flappy” mode where you hold the screen to go up and release to go down – you know the drill.  Personally I could have done without these particular sequences, but there’s no questions that it adds an extra bit of variety to everything that’s going on.

Each level is a unique experience, in no small part due to the brilliant combination of visuals and audio that comprises your surroundings.  As with a fair number of rhythm based games the music isn’t something I’d normally just sit down and listen to, but as a backdrop for the action in this game it is wonderful.  The beat is naturally synced with the terrain, and if you’re not careful you’ll end up embarrassing yourself as your head bobs up and down to the music that no one else hears, at least if you use headphones like you should in order to fully appreciate the tunes.  The visuals have a blocky look, but in a slick way and not a “this looks like every other blocky game on the App Store” way.  Parts of the background will light up with the beat, much like some of the awesome displays people put up on their houses over the Christmas season.  There’s not much in the way of sound effects, but in reality you don’t actually need any.


So you manage to actually finish one or more of the 7 levels that currently exist, but does the game offer more?  Well, there are 3 musical notes to collect on each level, so there’s incentive to replay the level if you don’t get them all the first time.  Of course so far they seem to primarily inhabit the “flappy” sections of the level, which is bad news for me.  The game also offers 28 achievements through Game Center, and since there are only 7 levels that means they require more than completing a level in order to earn them.  Also, on the level selection screen there appear to be 2 progress bars for each level, so I’m guessing that you might get to play through a – dare I say it – harder version of each level once you’ve completed them all.  Someone with actual skillz will have to fill me in on that some day.

Overall I’m pretty happy with the game, but if I had to wave my mythical game altering wand and change something I’d love to see save points.  Of course that actually seems to be a fairly unpopular feature among rhythm games, and I suppose it might harm the flow of the game somehow, so I’m not holding my breath.  Also, I wish that instead of simply spiraling me into another attempt at losing a level the game would actually ask me if I want to play again.  That might actually make it just a bit easier for me to tear myself away when I know I should be doing other things.  Of course a little willpower might help there as well, but then I’d have to take responsibility for my addiction.


The concept of rhythm games, inasmuch as they look like cheap knock-offs of Guitar Hero, still manages to elude me.  However, as long as developers keep making bizarre alternative like Dub Dash, I’m more than willing to pretend to be a fan from time to time.  Slick visuals, lively music that keeps the head bobbing and a different mechanic than you see in most rhythm games make Dub Dash enjoyable even if you’re not a fan of the genre.


App Summary
Title: Dub Dash Developer: Headup Games GmbH & Co KG
Reviewed Ver: 1.0 Min OS Req:  iOS 7.0
Price: $0.99 App Size: 55.94MB
  • Challenging, addictive game play
  • Great visuals
  • Exciting, dynamic music
  • Decent replay factor
  • No checkpoints


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Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers in Review: Rose Colored Glasses Might Be Required Wed, 04 Nov 2015 06:22:46 +0000 I feel a certain bit of irony as I write this piece.  Over the past 10 years, most any time I’ve written a review of a third person perspective adventure game I’ve made some sort of reference to the legendary Sierra On-line games catalog.  Now I’ve finally gotten the chance to play one of these … Read more]]>


I feel a certain bit of irony as I write this piece.  Over the past 10 years, most any time I’ve written a review of a third person perspective adventure game I’ve made some sort of reference to the legendary Sierra On-line games catalog.  Now I’ve finally gotten the chance to play one of these legendary games on my iPad and I’m not sure what to make of it.  The game is Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers 20th Anniversary Edition, and in my defense, I never actually played this particular game the first time around.  Still, I believe it’s regarded as one of the best non-Williams Sierra games from the “old days”, and yet I’ve really struggled to get into it.  As a result of that I didn’t get very far into the game before my time ran out with it, but I’ve decided to give you my impressions thus far, rather than an actual “review with a rating”.  It might feel like a review, but I’ll leave that distinction up to you.  (For those curious, I say my “time ran out” because I was playing the game through Testflight, a system which allows me to play the entire game without buying the IAP, and my Testflight build has expired).


Sins of the Fathers is the story of a struggling writer with a failing bookstore that gets sucked into a murder mystery in the heart of New Orleans.  Sounds like a recipe for success to me, yet after roughly 2.5 to 3 hours of playing the game the most gripping part of the story for me has been the graphic novel prequel that came out before the game was even released.  Part of the problem I’m sure is the size and pacing of the game.  The overall happenings are broken down into ten days, and after a few hours of playing I’m still only on day two, which gives you the potential scope of the game assuming the rest of the days follow suit.  I guess you could compare it to the network version of The Shining versus the movie.  It’s basically the same story, but the movie has to get to the important points more quickly because it has a shorter run time.  Sins of the Fathers is the mini-series version of Gabriel Knight’s life story, and I need the blockbuster movie interpretation.

This tedious pace is actually exacerbated by the point system the game employs.  This was something a lot of the old Sierra games did, and in this case it basically requires you to examine every item and hold every possible conversation, because you never know what’s going to earn you a point.  The problem with examining every item is that sometimes when you walk into a room and hold the screen to reveal all the “topic” points there might be 20-30 items in the room that are potentially worth looking at.  Then if you leave the room before you’ve finished your exploration and come back later you have to remember on your own what you’ve looked at and what you haven’t.  At least with the conversations used up topics will be removed from the list, and already visited topics with additional details are a different color than fresh dialog paths.  The issue there is that often times the dialog just isn’t that interesting.


The interface is actually pretty nice.  If you tap on a topic point on the screen you’ll get a list of options that will always include an eye (looking at an item), and could include a hand (taking an item), a speech bubble (talking to the recipient), gears (interacting with the item) and your currently active inventory item if the object has the ability to be used with an item.  Within your inventory you can get a general description of each item, and sometimes you can examine an item more closely.  You can also combine items, and ultimately select an item to be your active item.  The one enhancement I could see here would be the ability to switch active items while on a topic point instead of having to constantly go back to your inventory, but I can’t really picture how that would work effectively at this point.  You can tap to move around the screen, but the character will automatically move to an object depending on which action you select to use on it.

Where the game really shines is in the way it builds a thriving facsimile of New Orleans.  I don’t know much about the city or how accurate the portrayal is in Sins Of The Father, but even if it was way off base, the general feeling is something more adventure games should strive for.  This might be a bit spoiler-ish, but it’s all in the details like the fact that you get a fresh paper delivered to your door every day, and when you go to get your cup of coffee you actually watch Gabriel pour it and take a drink.  Head off to the park and there will be different inhabitants depending on when you go.  Walk to one side and hear the tap dancer clicking his shoes, or slide on over to the other and listen to the band play.  Rather than just standing around or being slightly animated, many of the characters are actually walking around just like you’d expect characters to do in a real city.  More than anything else, this was the highlight of the game for me.


Of course the whole “living city” thing might not have been quite as engaging without the wonderful graphics that Gabriel Knight possesses.  I imagine this game looked pretty good back in the day, because Sierra was known for that, but it looks really sharp now.  All the locales are extremely well drawn and nicely detailed, and again using the park as a prime example, everything is quite animated when appropriate.  The only negative I had towards the visuals was that sometimes it was hard to tell what was in your inventory.  The sound effects were good and nothing seemed out of place, but I’m not sure I how I feel about the voiceovers.  They weren’t necessarily bad, but I didn’t feel like they were always the best choices given the looks of the various characters.  I was not a fan of the narrator’s accent at all.  On the other hand, the music was quite enjoyable, and for a third time I’ll point to the park as an example of the detail in this regards.  You might have two different people playing music at opposite ends of the park, which was noted as you moved from one side to the other.

The funny thing is that in the last few minutes I spent with the game I actually started to enjoy it.  I don’t know if that means I would have come around completely or if it was a false sense of upward trajectory in the contents of the game, but whatever the case I don’t feel like it should have taken an excess of two hours to get to that point.  In the end I’d say this is primarily geared towards two groups of players: those that had reveled in the original production so many years ago and folks that prefer exploration and dialog to quick results and lots of puzzle solving.  Unfortunately I don’t fall into either category, I’m glad I got the opportunity to try the game out, but I’m not sure at this point I’d feel comfortable recommending it.  The plus side is that you can get the first day to play for free, but the game weighs in at almost 2GB so keep that in mind before taking it for a spin.  Instead of a fully detailed rating and Pros / Cons list, I’ll just leave you with an App Store link to the game.

Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers 20th Anniversary Edition Phoenix Online Studios, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers 20th Anniversary Edition – Free

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Almost 13 iOS Games To Play On Halloween 2015 Fri, 30 Oct 2015 03:24:41 +0000 It’s that time of the year when creatures go bump in the night and devour all the excess sweets in sight.  Thankfully if you’re not into that there’s plenty to keep you busy on your iOS device.  For the first couple of years as I was doing the roundups I put together a special Halloween … Read more]]>


It’s that time of the year when creatures go bump in the night and devour all the excess sweets in sight.  Thankfully if you’re not into that there’s plenty to keep you busy on your iOS device.  For the first couple of years as I was doing the roundups I put together a special Halloween edition as well, but that sort of fell by the wayside.  Now it’s back, though I figured since everyone is covering the spookier side of the holiday offerings, I’d take a look at the lighter end of things.  I also tried not to make the subject matter in terms of featured creatures fairly diverse, because I’ll begrudgingly admit that Halloween is NOT zombie-centric.  Finally, you might be wondering about the title.  I wanted to get this published before Halloween, but I like the idea of 13, since that is kind of Halloween’s number.  So check back over the next couple of days and you might find an addition or two to the list.  Hope you enjoy it and find something entertaining to play over this Halloween weekend.


Soda Dungeon [10/8/15] – Welcome to the first casual tavern / dungeon crawling sim.  Okay, that might not actually be the case, but the combination of elements in this game is a first for me.  You start with the local soda jerk (not as much of an insult as it seems), and over time you help the barkeep build up his tavern so you can recruit more talented and specialized adventurers.  Of course you’ll only attract the best and brightest if you be sure to stock the most popular sodas.  After all, what good adventurer doesn’t like some carbonation before he takes on vile monsters?  As you journey through the dungeon you’ll earn coins, and you can also scrounge up some equipment.  You’ll also be able to buy goods from vendors as you build up the tavern.  You have new recruits every time you enter the dungeon, but your equipment will stay with you permanently.  The dungeon’s a bit of grind as you have to start from level one each time, but the base levels get easier as your equipment gets stronger and it’s always a good way to earn more coins.  You can also take on battles in the arena to earn extra money.  This isn’t necessarily the most in-depth dungeon crawler, but it’s pretty fun.

Soda Dungeon Armor Games Inc, Soda Dungeon – Free


Diamond Quest: Halloween Trail [10/21/15] – Diamond Quest is a match 3 game, it sports a Halloween theme and it’s got cute puzzle pals that will appeal to the kids.  Surprisingly, that actually makes for a pretty fun combination in an iPad game.  You start the game with one puzzle pet and can unlock more as the game progresses.  It also looks like you might be able to upgrade the pets, but I’m not sure when that comes into play.  Like many match 3 games these days there is a combat element, which is where the pets come into play.  Match enough gems of a particular pet’s color and that pet will attack as well as unleash a special on the board like providing a power up or removing a block that’s in the way.  You can have up to three pets in play at a time, and you can either play one of several different colors to keep things diverse or try to have multiple pets of the same color to get more attack power out of matching a particular color of gem.  Diamond Quest might not provide the most original mix of match 3 mechanics, but there’s enough to keep adults entertained while the cute pets will certainly draw the kids in.

Diamond Quest: Halloween Trail Storm8, Diamond Quest: Halloween Trail – Free


USSHHN5 [10/10/15] – I figured I should probably try to throw a few games in this list that might actually be construed as spooky, seeing as this is a Halloween list and all.  The part of the title that they left out of the actual listing is “As Darkness Descends”, which of course would have been a better actual name for the game.  You must unravel the secrets of the Blood Moon as you keep hordes of creatures at bay, and the game uses an interesting combination of rail shooter movement and symbol drawing to accomplish this task.  Basically you don’t have to worry about where you’re going, but you do have to be ready at a moment’s notice to start tracing the runes that appear on the screen before the creatures you’re attempting to ward off do a Walking Dead on you.  On the plus side your hurried scratching doesn’t need to look exactly like what’s on the screen, but on the other hand it will need to be a lot more precise than you’d like at times.  As you take damage the screen starts to clutter with your blood which can actually obscure certain runes until it’s too late.  The visuals can sometimes counter the creepy nature of the game by seeming a bit too cartoony, but they are so cool looking that it is easy to forgive.  I’m not sure how long the game is as a whole, but the free price tag makes it at least worth a download and quick gander if you like horror themed games.

USSHHN5 NBCUniversal Media, LLC, USSHHN5 – Free


Boogie Woogie [10/27/14] – Apparently this was actually a release for Halloween last year, though I must admit I don’t recall seeing it back then.  I also had no idea Dracula was such a dazzling dancer.  At least that’s what he seems to think.  As such he’s stolen your bride-to-be Wanda to be his dancing partner.  It’s up to you to best his minions and ultimately challenge the lord of the undead himself in order to win your beloved’s freedom.  The game is basically a combination of rhythm and Simon, and while I tend to struggle with reaction times in most rhythm games, the memory aspect is the most challenging part of this trip for me.  It would be nice if each character you faced could be broken down into several smaller sequences instead of one large one, but I guess that just means I’ll have to work harder to master my funky beats.  I do like games that have kid appeal yet are still engaging for adults, and Boogie Woogie definitely falls under that category.  Besides, it’s not too often these days you find so many classic movie characters under one roof.  If you feel like getting your groove on this Halloween season Boogie Woogie is a great choice for you.

Boogie Woogie Flickerpix, Boogie Woogie – Free


Los Aliens [10/7/15] – It’s rare these days to find a game on the App Store that truly feels unique, but the more I play Los Aliens the more I think it qualifies.  Your task is to seek out strange new worlds, discovering new creatures and civilizations… okay, you caught me… aside from the “boldly go” part, that credo sounds awfully familiar.  Still, it’s how you go about it that’s rather interesting.  On each planet your presented with a grid of the surface, and you must “burn lines” by filling up all the squares in a line either horizontally or vertically.  To move around the grid you use an L shape pattern like the knight in a chess game, and whenever you leave a square it gets populated with a quark.  Once all the squares in a line are filled with quarks, other game objects or yourself the line gets cleared and you’re closer to your goal for that level.  In addition to burning lines each level has various other goals you have to work towards as well.  Once a planet has been explored you’ll earn up to three stars depending on your performance.  There are also 26 achievements to earn and a leaderboard to rank on, though the leaderboard is for number of levels passed, so the highest you can climb is the bottom of the list of people that have completed the game.  If you’re looking for a puzzle game that sets itself apart from the crowd, give Los Aliens a try.

Los Aliens Shadow Masters Limited, Los Aliens – Free


Villains Corp. | The Secret Villainy Laboratory [10/7/15] – Who doesn’t like to play the bad guy every once in a while, right?  In this quirky take on the time management sim from Tapps you are the master of a secret evil laboratory.  Your job is to cause havoc in the overworld, but in order to do that you’ll need to create minions.  These aren’t your garden variety cute yellow minions, however.  There are bat minions and bird minions and robots and more.  There are also two kinds of minions: ones that you grow and ones that you breed by combining two grown minions together.  Each mission has its own requirements for what type of minions you need and its own rewards in terms of coins, gems and stars.  Coins are used to buy new tubes for growing and breeding, while gems are used to speed up any lengthy process if you don’t feel like waiting.  Stars are your experience, and as you earn stars you’ll level up which unlocks additional components of the game.  You can buy coins and gems via IAP, but if you’re patient you can typically earn everything you need without spending the money.  The main thing is that you keep up on collecting grown minions, because new ones won’t grow until you’ve emptied the tubes of the old ones.  On the breeding side you also have to make sure you start new minions, because one breeding tube can create multiple different types of minions so it doesn’t happen automatically.  This actually seems like a fairly complex game for Tapps standards, and it is pretty fun to boot.

Villains Corp. | The Secret Villainy Laboratory Tapps Tecnologia da Informação Ltda., Villains Corp. | The Secret Villainy Laboratory – Free


Zombie T-Shirt Store [10/28/15] – There are a lot of match 3 style games on the App Store that claim to be different from the pack, but Zombie T-Shirt Store is one of the few that makes good on that claim, despite not actually making the claim in the first place.  So here’s the deal: you work the counter at a store that may or may not sell t-shirts infected by a zombie virus.  That being said, you’re more than happy to take returns from the customers, so long as you put the merchandise right back on the shelves for others to buy.  As the zombies come “rushing” through the door to give back the shirts, you must tap two or more of the same color to take the shirts back.  The interesting thing is that there is a Mahjong type of effect where you can’t tap certain zombies until you’ve cleared others out of the way, even if you could technically reach those zombies.  Once you’ve cleared out the impending horde your shift will be over, you’ll get paid and you’ll move on to the next wave of undead.  Once you’ve worked enough shifts you’ll be able to buy a gun which can be used to pick off stray zombies that don’t have a match or ones that are too close to the counter for comfort.  Earn enough cash and you can buy better guns or upgrade the one you have.  Just don’t let a customer get too close to the counter or it is game over.  There are three leaderboards via Game Center, but there are no achievements yet.

Zombie T-shirt Store Raketspel AB, Zombie T-shirt Store – Free


Frankenchase [10/27/15] – This is a quirky little game, but if you’ve been following me for any length of time you’ll know I sort of thrive on quirky little games.  It seems the good doctor of reanimation fame has decided to give up his life-meddling ways and become a bounty hunter.  In this infinite runner your job is to take down as many creatures as you can.  The general rule is that if it is running away from you, you can kill it.  If it’s running, flying or generally appearing to come towards you then it’s bad for you.  There’s one unique creature on each level that definitely stands out from the crowd, and this one you need to strike multiple times to defeat it and move on to the next level.  The “bad for you” creatures never kill you but they will slow you down, and if the stop you enough that you get pushed off the left side of the screen you’ll lose a level.  Lest you start to fret just a bit, you will be able to upgrade your efforts with the coins you collect from slaying beasts.  There are three different weapons to choose from, each of which can be made more powerful, and you can also invest in better boots to speed up your gait.  There is a leaderboard to rank on, though without any achievements or missions I’m not sure how much longevity the game has.  Still, it’s free with no IAP and it’s a small download, so it can’t hurt to at least check it out.

Frankenchase Gavin Soebiantoro, Frankenchase – Free


Dead End [4/2/14] – Many games these days that involve cars and running anything over tend to be done in some sort of halfway fancy 3D engine.  The first thing that caught my eye with Dead End was the slick visual presentation, which looks like something that came from an extremely early model home computer.  Once you get past that the game has some pretty basic game play revolving around running over zombies and avoiding everything else.  The default controls include tapping the left and right sides of the screen to turn, tilting the device to shake loose an overly aggressive zombie and swiping to appropriately activate your “swipers”, better known as windshield wipers.  The last thing is kind of hard to get used to when it means temporarily taking yourself away from steering, but it is essential when the screen fills up with zombie blood.  As you cleanse the street from the undead you’ll earn money which can be used to upgrade various aspects of your ride like steering and tires.  There are no over the top weapons like flame throwers or missile launchers, or any other weapons besides your car for that matter, but sometimes it’s fun enough just using your grill to decimate the enemy.  The game does offer a leaderboard for the best distance as well as 21 achievements to earn, and at the time of this being authored the IAP for unlocking the full game was free.

Dead End Thomas Altenburger, Dead End – Free


Cauldron Quest: A Witch’s Tale [10/14/15] – This is yet another take on the whole 2048 style of puzzle game, and conceptually it’s one of the better ones I’ve played.  You take on the role of a witch that’s trying to mix up some potions and generally clean up the countryside from all the rampant spiders, slime and other things that are hanging around.  To make potions you have to combine diamonds into powder, and then powder into potions, each layer having multiple steps of combinations.  The game starts to throw in match 3 elements with blocks that can be removed only when making matches next to them, slime that can only be removed when making matches on top of it and blocks that simply can’t be removed at all.  The spiders are dealt with by sliding a broom into them, but if it goes the other way around it won’t count.  The game also borrows from the match 3 genre by providing an overhead map with levels, each of which you can earn up to three stars on depending on how effectively you use your moves.  As you complete certain goals you’ll increase your witch ranking and earn new hats and gold.  Eventually you’ll also be able to unlock objects that will help you in your quest.  One other thing I’d like to point out about this game is that it has a surprisingly well orchestrated soundtrack, which hasn’t been common amongst the 2048 style games that I’ve played previously.

Cauldron Quest: A Witch's Tale Fuzzy Hat Pty Ltd, Cauldron Quest: A Witch’s Tale – Free


Unkilled [9/2/15] – I’ve mentioned this game on a couple of different occasions, so I figured this was as appropriate a time as any to actually put it into a roundup.  I’ve said it before and I maintain the fact that I’m not a huge FPS fan, but games like Unkilled actually make it fun for folks like me.  Instead of being comprised of a few long levels with or without breakpoints, Unkilled is comprised of dozens of bite sized missions that only take a minute or two to complete.  As a result there’s an immediate and frequent sense of accomplishment, and you don’t lose much ground should you actually happen to die.  Each level has three goals to complete, one of which usually involves simply completing the mission, and when you can always replay a level to collect any stars that you’ve missed.  There are also achievements to earn that will score you extra goods as well as side quests called Raids that are tougher and yield higher rewards.  Three specialty items are limited in use but come in handy in a pinch, and there are more than 50 weapons to buy and upgrade.  You’ll often even have AI soldiers fighting at your side, though that can actually be an impediment if one of your goals is killing a certain number of zombies.  What I like best about the game is that the default option is auto fire, so all you have to concentrate on is moving and aiming.  That’s definitely a huge bonus for some that’s not so skilled at this type of game.



Zombie Heat [10/30/15] – Sorry, I seem to have drifted into Zombie-land for the latter portion of this roundup.  Zombie Heat is the first offering for Ballyhoo Games, and it’s a promising start to what will hopefully be a solid mobile game catalog.  In this case the zombie outbreak is caused by an asteroid colliding into the Earth, so at least it’s not somehow mans’ fault.  The threat is still very real, however, and as a survivor you’ll have to protect your trailer from 80 waves of undead terror.  To help you along you’ll have access to several different kinds of barricades, traps and weapons, the last of which are under your control.  Set the traps and barricades, start the wave rollin’ and then take out all the zombies with the large weapon sitting atop your trailer.  If you’ve played any sort of Angry Birds variant or clone you know the drill: pull back and release to take the shot.  Your standard ammo is unlimited, while special projectiles are more deadly and scarce in nature.  You can earn up to three stars per level, though at this point there are no leaderboards to climb or achievements to earn.  Still, if you’re a zombie slaying freak like me and are looking for something a bit different, this might just fit the bill.

Zombie Heat Ballyhoo Games, Zombie Heat – $1.99

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.

13 iOS Games To Play On Halloween 201213 iPhone and iPad Games To Play This Halloween (2011)
20 iPhone and iPad Games to play this Halloween (2010)

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Dodo Master in Review – Don’t Be A Dodo And Miss This One Sun, 25 Oct 2015 05:49:07 +0000 3D certainly has its place in the world of gaming, and there’s no question that some of the 3D content available on the iOS platform looks pretty slick.  Personally, though, I’d just assume have a nicely drawn 2D game any day of the week, and Dodo Master is just such a game.  It’s a lot … Read more]]>


3D certainly has its place in the world of gaming, and there’s no question that some of the 3D content available on the iOS platform looks pretty slick.  Personally, though, I’d just assume have a nicely drawn 2D game any day of the week, and Dodo Master is just such a game.  It’s a lot more than eye candy, however.  It’s the perfect example of how to make a fun platform game for iOS that has pretty basic mechanics and derives its challenge from excellent level design rather than shoddy controls.  And, you get can hats for your dodo.  Who doesn’t love a dodo wearing hats?


If you haven’t caught on yet, you play a dodo in Dodo Master.  For some reason that’s not really explained you’ve been tossed in a dungeon, and all of your eggs have been captured (which, based on what I’ve played so far, means you’ve been a VERY busy dodo).  You finally decide you can’t take it and escape from your cell, so now you have to figure out how to get out of this odd yet beautifully constructed dungeon.  There are 20 levels to master, each comprised of 4 different sections.  You can complete the levels in any order, but once you choose a level you must finish it in order to earn a key to unlock another level.  Even the level selection screen is a level that you can walk through, though thankfully there are no traps to harm you as you navigate from door to door.  Those come only once you’ve entered one of the doors.

Speaking of which, there are plenty of traps littered throughout the levels in Dodo Master.  Spiked implements of death are prevalent, as well as pits of fire, collapsing platforms and perilously small ledges that are easy to accidentally step off of or completely miss when you’re jumping towards them.  There is also a bestiary comprised of rats (both the regular and N.I.H.M. kind), spiders that have clearly been feed too much and weird half-creature skeletons that hover around and sometimes hurl flaming blue balls at you.  If you actually ponder it for a minute the variety of different obstacles is not that great, yet the developers have managed to make each level feel fresh and exciting.  The other thing that strikes me about the level design is that while some parts can be challenging and infrequently even get frustrating, in the end everything always seems fair.  Unlike many platform games that go for the cheap kill, this one feels like the developers had the players in mind.


The controls are pretty standard platforming fare: left and right arrows for movement, a button to jump / double jump and a button to perform a slam after you’ve jumped.  The slam is useful for breaking eggs or hearts out of containers as well as removing some unsturdy flooring to reach levels below, but remember that all creatures can be dispatched with a regular jump, so don’t use the slam if you don’t need to.  The controls work pretty decent, though occasionally I find myself accidentally hitting the opposite direction of how I actually want to move.  You can actually position the controls wherever you’d like, but on my iPad 2 I haven’t quite found the position yet that alleviates my problem and feels comfortable.  You do have two chances on each section before you have to start over, unless you start the section with only one heart.  Thankfully there are enough hearts scattered throughout the levels that you can usually recoup your life without too much trouble.  And, if you happen to complete a level with only one heart, there are even a couple scattered throughout the menu level.

To finish the game you simply have to conquer all 20 levels.  There wouldn’t be much challenge in that though, now, would there?  If you truly want to complete the game you need to get all the eggs on each level.  Fortunately, if you happen to miss one or two the first time around you can always play a level again to get the remaining eggs.  The game is even nice enough to color code the eggs so you know which ones you’ve already collected and can simply risk your lives for the remaining ones.  Plus, for every level you gather all of the eggs on you’ll earn a new hat.  And trust me, some of these hats are pretty cool.  I just wish there were some indication of how many eggs you had left to gather on a level.  Right now you only know you’ve got them all when it counts them up at the completion of the level.  Additionally there are 21 achievements to earn, and while they are “hidden” before completion when you look in Game Center, 20 correspond to getting all the eggs on each level.  I would suppose the last is for completing the entire game.


Dodo Master is a gorgeous game, which is the reason I started this review with my comments on 2D vs 3D.  The levels are beautifully drawn and nicely detailed.  From the time you step into a room with the gust of air accentuating your entrance to all the details like light streaming through the windows and the fire of candles and torches flickering everywhere, the artists did a wonderful job of making this a living, breathing world.  They were even kind enough to provide little red sparkles around the less obvious dangerous areas.  The audio elements are also extremely well done.  The creaks and groans of the equipment really add to the atmosphere of the dungeon, and things like the crackle of the flames enhance the feeling of a dynamic world.  I did find the choice of making the smaller rounds sound like squeaky toys when being squished a bit odd.  The music is nicely written and sets a great mood for your quest, but I was particularly impressed with the tracks for the last couple of rooms.  They really stepped it up a notch on those two and got the adrenaline pumping for the end of the game.

At a time when there seems to be a trend towards infinite runners and third person perspectives, it is nice to still see some developers put out good old fashioned Mario style platform games.  Sure they might not be as nail biting as the old Mega Man fare or as intricate as a Metroid or Mario, but in a world constantly on the go they suit me just fine.  Dodo Master is a fine example of such a game, and I hope their promise of more to come holds true.  I’d love to see these guys tackle a set of levels that takes place outdoors to challenge both the designers’ abilities at devising puzzles and the artists’ capabilities of bringing a 2D world to life.


App Summary
Title: Dodo Master Developer: semir Saleh
Reviewed Ver: 1.11 Min OS Req:  iOS 7.0
Price: $0.99 App Size: 381.94MB
  • Simple, challenging game play
  • Well designed levels
  • Cool hats
  • Excellent visuals
  • Great music
  • Anti-climatic ending


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10 App Store Games To Watch [10/20/15] Tue, 20 Oct 2015 22:58:35 +0000 Halloween is almost upon us, but for those of you who might not like to be scared here’s a list of 10 fright-free games that can still entertain you on the eve of all things creepy.  It has been a while since I found a scrolling shooter as engaging as Sky Force 2014, but Steel … Read more]]>


Halloween is almost upon us, but for those of you who might not like to be scared here’s a list of 10 fright-free games that can still entertain you on the eve of all things creepy.  It has been a while since I found a scrolling shooter as engaging as Sky Force 2014, but Steel Grit does a pretty good job of filling in the gap.  It’s not quite as polished, but the levels are well made, there are multiple ships to unlock and upgrade and you actually get to tap some adversaries into oblivion instead of just guiding your ship to destroy everything.  Max Capacity does a good job of making elevator simulators a cool concept.  Random upgrades make the game a fresh experience every time, and you have to love a designer that takes a queue from Willy Wonka and makes elevators that travel sideways.  The biggest surprise on this list was Lunar Flowers, which at the risk of sounding extremely sexist looked like a “girly” game from the screen shots.  It turned out to be an engaging puzzle game that at times proved challenging and ultimately sucked me in until I finally completed it.


Lunar Flowers [9/23/15] – If you like games that straddle the line between art and interaction, then Lunar Flowers is worth checking out.  It’s definitely a game, but at times it is clear that presentation is more important than in depth game play.  In this case it actually manages to work quite well.  There is no dialog, and aside from the title no words appear on screen, so I’m not 100% sure what the point was, nor am I sure it completely matters.  Just like a great work or art, the foundation is there and you can use your imagination to fill in the details.  The game part primarily consists of connecting sets of flowers by tracing a specific pattern between them.  You’ll often have to use clues in the background to determine the patterns, however, and at times they even form the basis of puzzles you must solve.  There are even a couple of occasions where time is of the essence when you’re trying to draw the right sequence.  And just to keep you on your toes, the developers threw in a couple of puzzles that had nothing to do with connecting flowers.  The game is not incredibly long, but it’s engaging, it looks great, the music is nice and it’s free.  As with many of the games I include in this article, if you’re up for something that’s not just a cookie cutter of a game you’ve already played 100 times, Lunar Flowers is the way to go.

Lunar Flowers NetEase Games, Lunar Flowers – Free


Black Island [6/18/15] – I grew up on adventure games, so it’s always a pleasure for me to report on a good one that I come across.  I had actually downloaded Black Island a while before this roundup, but was compelled to give it a try when the developers temporarily made the IAP free.  The game is a fun, albeit relatively short, romp across a deserted island in an attempt to discover who you are and why you’re there.  Though the overall experience is short, the pacing within the timeframe of play is well done.  The puzzles are decent, and there are only a couple of mini-games that don’t tempt you to pull your hair out.  The game uses FMV for flashback sequences, which makes for more compelling storytelling than CGI rendered people and means the video isn’t awkwardly wedged into game play with ill effect.  The graphics are well done, but while the tone of the game is somewhat dark it would be nice if the scenes were lightened up a bit so you could enjoy the visual details more.  The videos are fairly well put together for what I imagine was a pretty slim budget, and the voiceover of the main character is nicely done.  Overall Black Island is a solid adventure game experience, though it would be nice to see the story expanded at some point.  While I don’t go for 10+ hour epics when it comes to adventure games, half an hour is a bit extreme in the other direction.

Black Island Helsinki Noir, Black Island – $2.99


Shooty Skies – Endless Arcade Flyer [9/29/15] – First off, I want to say this is not a great shooter.  You can argue with me until you’re blue in the face, but I still won’t concede that randomly generated levels are better than wave / pattern based ones when it comes to this genre.  And, this is missing one of the most important concepts of modern shooters in my opinion, the ability to permanently upgrade your fighter.  That being said, Shooty Skies is a rather entertaining game.  Thanks to designers that are clearly still kids at heart this has some of the best adversaries I’ve seen in a scrolling shooter in a long time.  The pilots and sidekicks are pretty cool as well, which makes it worthwhile to work towards earning 500 coins to unlock a new character (which really isn’t that difficult if you actually accept the bonuses the game throws at you periodically).  I do like the fact that you can either pick up weapon power-ups in the level or buy them before the level starts, and if you opt to buy them you get to use them for 2 hours after purchase.  I also think it’s interesting how you have to actually let go of the screen to charge up your super weapon, which makes it more of an acquired skill to use effectively.  The game does have a leaderboard for you competitive types, but there are currently no achievements to earn.  I’m glad I took the time to check out Shooty Skies, but I don’t think I’ll be adding it to my top scrolling shooters list any time soon.

Shooty Skies - Endless Arcade Flyer Mighty Games, Shooty Skies – Endless Arcade Flyer – Free


Combo Quest [1/8/15] – Combo Quest is a side scrolling rogue-like lite that uses twitch tapping for combat and requires you to build up massive combos in order to succeed.  The game is rogue-like in the sense that when you die it is game over, no questions asked.  That means each run is a fresh take, which is further cemented by the fact that the options you can upgrade between each kill are randomly generated at the time of your victory.  One run you might have strong attack skills but are weak on health, and the next time you’re healthy as an ox but can’t make a combo to save yourself.  Your ultimate goal is to defeat the combo king, but that won’t be an easy task.  And since you basically have a new character every time, it might be hard to find that optimal playing configuration.  There are a few permanent perks you can acquire via IAP in the form of steeds and satchels, but for the most part everything has to be earned fresh every game.  Game Center provides two leaderboards and 11 achievements, but for a while at least you’ll be busy simply trying to conquer the elusive Combo King.

Combo Quest Tapinator, Inc., Combo Quest – Free


Swap Cops [9/2/15] – While I’m all for complex strategy games with lots of options, when you’re on the go it’s nice sometimes to be able to play a strategy game where a single mission might only take a couple of minutes.  Swap Cops is just such a game.  You can unlock up to 12 different cops, four of which will go with you on each mission.  The three in the front row attack while the one in the back is getting healed.  If you swap the one in back for someone in front, the one moving to the front will unleash a special attack, otherwise everyone in front will just fight with a basic attack.  The key is in understanding how each of the special attacks work so that you can use them to effectively wipe out the bad guys, or in the case of saving the civilians avoid frying them in the process.  For every mission you complete you’ll earn some coins, and if you fail a mission you’ll get the option to watch a video to earn some money.  This money can be used to upgrade the health, attack and skill values of each cop as well as to unlock new cops.  The missions are conceivably endless, while a leaderboard and 15 achievements give you more definitive goals.  This clearly won’t be the most in-depth strategy game you’ll find for your iOS device, but it’s perfect for quick bouts of on the go gaming.

Swap Cops Christopher Savory, Swap Cops – Free


Max Capacity [7/18/15] – I never really pictured myself as an elevator operator, but Max Capacity makes the job rather entertaining.  You use virtual buttons to move the elevator around, and a button to open and close the doors.  Arrows will point you in the directions of passengers that need to be picked up, and little bubbles above their heads indicate where they want to be dropped off.  The quicker you pick up and deliver the higher your tips will be, but miss a few passengers and the game is over.  For each hour you complete you’ll get to choose one upgrade such as an increase in the maximum amount of passengers you can hold or a decrease in the amount of time it takes the elevator to stop.  The down side is that all of these upgrades only apply to the current game that you’re playing, so once you lose you start from scratch.  On the plus side, that makes it feel like a fresh game every time.  There are 10 achievements to unlock and one leaderboard to place on thanks to Game Center.  The game could use a couple of tweaks like not having to actually tap on your tips to collect them or stronger alerts when a customer is getting frustrated, but overall the game is well done and fun to play.  I think it was the ability for the elevators to go sideways ala Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that really sold it for me.

Max Capacity Cloud Monster Studios, Max Capacity – Free


Gemmy Lands [5/8/15] – I really wasn’t expecting much from this game because it looked like your standard Candy Crush Saga style game.  The truth is that Gemmy Lands is just that in a lot of ways.  You have all your typical types of levels: earn a certain number of points, clear away a certain number of tiles, or make sure a certain number of objects reach the bottom of the screen.  Yet here I am more than 50 levels into the game and still going strong.  I think part of the appeal is that many of the levels look insane when you first load them up and as a result it is quite satisfying once you beat them.  I also like the planet building aspect of the game.  As you beat levels you’ll earn gold bars and unlock buildings that you can place on your planet.  These buildings help speed up the process of rejuvenating hearts, and I think that as you get further into the game they will provide other benefits as well.  And, it’s a unique feature that other match 3 games don’t have.  The game offers 47 achievements and a leaderboard through Game Center, and you can also hook up with your friends via Facebook.  This may not be the most original match 3 game around, yet it’s managed to hold my attention far more than many others I’ve tried in the past few months.

Gemmy Lands Nevosoft LLC, Gemmy Lands – Free


Steel Grit [6/30/15] – Speaking of “real” scrolling shooters, if you haven’t already you should check out Steel Grit.  First of all, these guys know a thing or two about making wave based shooters.  I also really like how they’ve structured the whole weapons system.  You have one main gun that you can level up between missions with the coins you earn, increasing the weapon itself, the amount of damage it does and the speed with which it fires.  You can also collect temporary boosts throughout the level, as well as a special “blow up almost everything” weapon that is activated by tapping a button at the side of the screen.  Health is regenerated slowly over time so you don’t have to worry about finding health packs in the levels.  In addition to upgrading your ship there are also two other ships you can unlock and upgrade.  One mechanic that I believe is unique to this game is that besides just moving your ship in front of the bad guys to shoot them, some of the villains require you to actually tap them one or more times to destroy them.  There are currently only 8 levels to the game, but you’ll revisit each one many times in your quest to become strong enough to take on the boss enemies.  There are challenge modes “coming soon” for each of these levels, and maybe someday we’ll even see new levels.  With what appears to be 135 achievements at this point, however, you might not need any new content for a while.

Steel Grit Polysauce Interactive L.L.C., Steel Grit – Free


Random Heroes 3 [11/12/14] – This is the third installment in the series, and even though I own all of them this is the first one I’ve had the opportunity to play.  If you’ve ventured into the realm of Devious Dungeon you’ll feel right at home here, albeit with more of a sci-fi than fantasy atmosphere.  The game is comprised of 3 chapters, each with 25 levels.  Unlike Devious Dungeon, however, the levels in this game are not randomly generated.  To earn three stars you’ll have to find one somewhere in the level, defeat all the monsters and beat the level under a certain amount of time.  So, just making it through the level accomplishes nothing other than unlocking the next level for you.  There are coins lying around, and you’ll also get loot from attacking the monsters.  Beyond that there is a skull hidden on each level.  Coins allow you to purchase new heroes and weapons, while the combination of coins and skulls gives you the ability to upgrade what you already own.  Each hero has a special ability, and each weapon is stronger in some areas than others. In addition to completing all the levels there are 10 achievements to earn, but if you’re like me you’ll derive most of your pleasure from earning three stars on each level and unlocking as many characters and weapons as you can.

Random Heroes 3 Ravenous Games Inc., Random Heroes 3 – Free


Polyblast [10/15/15] – If you’re tired of wave based scrollers, bullet hell shmups or worse yet, endless random shooters, Polyblast is just the relief you’ve been looking for.  All you have to do is shoot a number of black circles that are descending to the bottom of the screen.  The thing is, most of the dots are attached to some sort of white object, and if any part of a white object crosses your defense line before you’ve taken care of its corresponding dot, the level is over.  Just to make sure things aren’t too easy for you, the dots are moving back and forth along the white objects.  And, more often than not, the white objects are moving as well. Then there are the spikes and lasers that you have to deal with, as well as the occasional rogue dot that acts more like a meteor.  For your defense you have three cannons at your disposal… except they all have limited ammunition.  As a result, timing and accuracy are the keys to truly surviving this game.  There are a couple of bonuses, like unlimited shooting for five seconds if you make five good shots in a row and freezing everything but dots for five seconds.  The free download gives you access to three worlds with 15 levels apiece, and you can unlock 4 more for a 99 cent IAP.  There is a versus mode as well for two players on the same device, but at this stage it is rather basic.  Polyblast shines as a single player game, however, and provides a unique take on the scrolling shooter concept.

PolyBlast Game Cooks, PolyBlast – 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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A Day In The Woods Gets Spooky For Halloween Tue, 20 Oct 2015 19:08:48 +0000 One of my biggest joys as a reviewer is being able to report about games on the App Store that stand out from the pack, and A Day In The Woods is just such a game.  You can check out my review here: To Grandmother’s House We Go.  To celebrate the Halloween season, RetroEpic Software … Read more]]>


One of my biggest joys as a reviewer is being able to report about games on the App Store that stand out from the pack, and A Day In The Woods is just such a game.  You can check out my review here: To Grandmother’s House We Go.  To celebrate the Halloween season, RetroEpic Software has added a Halloween themed skin (called, appropriately enough, a “season” within the game).  Unlike the other seasons in the game which have to be unlocked via collecting stars, this one will be available immediately once you’ve updated after the October 22 release of the new version.  If you don’t already own the game, RetroEpic has temporarily knocked a dollar off of the game’s price as well.  You can download it here:

A Day In The Woods RetroEpic Software, A Day In The Woods (TMA Review) – $3.99

The sale only lasts until Halloween, so grab it while you can.

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The Lost Ship in Review – Unfortunately It’s A Short Search Thu, 08 Oct 2015 03:18:47 +0000 I’m a huge fan of adventure games, and to be quite frank I’m not that upset when they don’t last for 10 or 15 hours.  On the other hand, this is the second game I’ve played in the last couple of weeks that took under an hour to play.  Still, despite its short running time … Read more]]>


I’m a huge fan of adventure games, and to be quite frank I’m not that upset when they don’t last for 10 or 15 hours.  On the other hand, this is the second game I’ve played in the last couple of weeks that took under an hour to play.  Still, despite its short running time The Lost Ship was a fun game to play.  I just wish there had been a bit more substance to the game, maybe in the form of more complex object puzzles to solve or something.  As it stands right now The Lost Ship feels more like a series of mini-games tied together with a thin plot than a full blown adventure game.


You play an archeologist that gets recruited by his uncle to help find some hidden treasure maps – and by “help” I mean you do all the work.  Sadly that is all there is to the story until the very end of the game, so I guess whatever the island you’re on is all about isn’t very important.  In standard adventure game fashion you’ll tap to move between screens, tap to pick up an inventory item, and tap to select an item to use somewhere on the screen.  The controls work smoothly enough, but since the developer went through the trouble of giving you this nice map with legible thumbprints of all the locations it would be cool if you could just tap on a location to move to it.  Of course that would cut down on the already short length of the adventure.

Hidden object phobics need not worry, as this game is strictly comprised of object based puzzles and mini-games.  I wish there were more of the former, as most of the object based puzzles revolve around finding a key to unlock a door or treasure chest.  The mini-games are decent enough, and you thankfully won’t have to pull your hair out trying to solve any of them.  In fact, most of the solutions can be found somewhere else on the island.  There’s nothing you haven’t seen before in this regards, so don’t expect to be awed by any of them.  As it happens, this is the game’s major flaw besides the short length.  While The Lost Ship provides a solid, fun adventure, there’s really no sense of originality to the game.  Personally I feel that’s probably enhanced by the lack of a fleshed out story.


The visuals are decent, and there are times where there are some really nice details to the scenes.  On the other hand, you’ll run into at least a couple of locations that look like they came out of a remastered early 90’s shareware game.  They still aren’t bad, mind you, but the level of detail doesn’t fit the rest of the backgrounds.  The other problem is that the color palette often makes the screens seem muddled.  For a game that takes place on what seems to be a plush deserted island, I would expect the visuals to be a bit more vibrant and lively.  On the other hand, I’m really impressed with the audio.  The sound effects do a great job of conveying what’s going on in the game, and the soundtrack is both well written and does a nice job of staying in the background.  I like the fact that there’s a playful, bouncy tune during many of the mini-games.

The Lost Ship is a decent adventure game.  There are plenty of puzzles to solve and the mini-games vary the game play without driving you nuts.  I just wish there were more to the game.  You only get a brief glimpse of plot at the beginning and end of the game, with nothing to clue you in on what the island or ship is all about.  Worse yet, the game feels like it is over before it begins.  Here’s keeping my fingers crossed that the sequel is longer like the iTunes description promises.


App Summary
Title: The Lost Ship Developer: Lone Wolf Games, LLC
Reviewed Ver: 1.7 Min OS Req:  iOS 6.0
Price: Free App Size: 55.41MB
  • Nice balance of puzzles and mini-games
  • Decent visuals
  • Excellent sound effects / music
  • Not much story
  • Game is short
  • Color palette makes visuals seem muddled at times


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Tin Man Games Delivers The Four Leaf Clover Of Gamebook News Wed, 07 Oct 2015 00:48:56 +0000 I’ve never hid the fact that I love the combination “choose your own adventure” / RPG style of entertainment that has come to be known as the “gamebook adventure”.  It’s also common knowledge if you’ve been with me long enough that my favorite developer in this genre is Tin Man Games.  They’ve been developing this … Read more]]>


I’ve never hid the fact that I love the combination “choose your own adventure” / RPG style of entertainment that has come to be known as the “gamebook adventure”.  It’s also common knowledge if you’ve been with me long enough that my favorite developer in this genre is Tin Man Games.  They’ve been developing this form of electronic entertainment since 2010, and based on their latest announcements they have no intention of slowing down.  That’s great news for fans like me.


The first tidbit is something that will satiate your current game playing needs.  The developer has recently released not one but TWO entries in their freshman series, the tales of Orlandes.  This series started with An Assassin In Orlandes, which I reviewed here (disregard the fact that it’s on a different site).  This was followed by several other tales in the land of Orlandes, occasionally intermixed with adventures from other realms.  It’s time for the series to conclude (or at least take a hiatus) with Gamebook Adventures 11: Songs of the Mystics and Gamebook Adventures 12: Asuria Awakens.  I have no reason to believe these installments will be any less enthralling than their predecessors, so get ready for some great interactive reading.


For those that have been around those “ancient” treasure troves of knowledge known as bookstores, you might recall that the combination of CYOA and RPG began with a series called Fighting Fantasy.  Tin Man Games has faithfully recreated and enhanced many of these original tales, and now they want to tackle the very first, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain.  They’ll be launching a Kickstarter campaign soon so that interested parties can help them make this the best modern version of the classic that they can make.  The Fighting Fantasy offerings that are available are already pretty impressive, so I can’t wait to see what they do with this one.


Finally, Tin Man Games has partnered with Games Workshop to bring the Legacy of Dorn trilogy to electronic devices everywhere.  The Warhammer universe is not something I’m particularly versed in, but here’s a synopsis of the first installment:

You are a veteran Space Marine of the Imperial Fists Chapter. Equipped with powerful Terminator armour and armed with the deadliest weapons that the Adeptus Astartes wield, you are a symbol of the Emperor’s might. Trapped aboard the space hulk Herald of Oblivion and the only survivor of your squad, you must fight your way through the aliens and heretics that infest the star vessel and find a way to escape the horror and return to your Chapter.

Given the significance and incredible popularity of the Warhammer IP, I’m sure the attention to detail in this effort will be second to none.

You can check out the latest two installments of the Orlandes saga now, while the other two electronic gamebooks are still being lovingly crafted.

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Blockadillo in Review – You Got A Brick Breaker In My Platform Game! Sat, 03 Oct 2015 18:20:10 +0000 I’ve always thought the armadillo was a cool looking creature, yet it seems like any time it is used as the protagonist in a game it ends up spending most of its time rolled up into a ball.  Thankfully these games usually tend to be fairly interesting, and Blockadillo is no exception.  In this case … Read more]]>


I’ve always thought the armadillo was a cool looking creature, yet it seems like any time it is used as the protagonist in a game it ends up spending most of its time rolled up into a ball.  Thankfully these games usually tend to be fairly interesting, and Blockadillo is no exception.  In this case game play is akin to a 360 degree brick breaker with some interesting platform style elements thrown into the mix.  It can get frustrating at times, but overall the game is challenging, well balanced and most importantly, fun.


You’re an armadillo in a jungle, trying to recover idols from a thieving monkey while being coached by a hummingbird.  I’ve got to believe there’s a Disney or Dreamworks fan somehow involved in this project.  In any case, you’ll have to navigate through 2 lands each comprised of 40 levels.  The levels are filled with bricks that must be broken, but unlike a typical Breakout style game these bricks are scattered in clumps throughout the level.  They might simply be there just for you to break, they might be in the way of your progress through the level, or they might even be part of a puzzle you need to solve.  Some are deadly and appropriately marked with a skull, while others with a plus cannot be destroyed but instead can be moved around the level.

Like any good platform game, each level is filled with obstacles to keep you from reaching your goal.  Besides the aforementioned skull bricks, thorns often line various surfaces of the level in an attempt to puncture your pride.  Before long blocks and switches become color coded, and it’s possible to find yourself trapped in a section because you’re surrounded by a color and can’t get to a painter to change yourself to that color.  There’s also the occasional pool of lava to contend with, though that seems to be more for preventing you from grabbing an idol than actually killing you.  Of course the end result could be your death anyway.  The one thing that interestingly enough does not act as an obstacle in this game is the timer.  While it helps determine how well you did on a level, you can still complete the level even if all the alarms on your time run out.


Controlling the game is interesting because instead of having a paddle like traditional brick breakers, in Blockadillo you actually alter the armadillo’s course by tapping the left or right sides of the screen.  It takes a bit of getting used to, and it can cause a lot of overcompensation at times, but it’s neat because you can change direction in mid air to narrowly avoid a trap that you didn’t see or that was revealed after triggering a switch.  The main problem I ran into was that the game would often freeze for just a fraction of a second in the middle of a level yet still recognize your tapping.  This could cause sudden death when the game decided to unpause and let you resume the action.  It’s not an insurmountable problem by any means, but it can certainly be annoying.

Each level has three stars you can earn which are related to the number of idols on a level.  The plus side is that if there are no idols, you automatically get three stars when you complete the level!  There are also three scrolls hidden in each world, and finding these scrolls unlocks bonus areas in the world.  So, while you can finish the game without them, you can’t truly complete the game until you have all six scrolls.  There are four leaderboards, one for each of the timer levels (bronze, silver and gold) and one for the total number of idols collected.  There are 21 achievements to earn as well.


I really like the visuals in Blockadillo.  They remind me of a solid 16 bit console game, with nice details and decent animation.  There are times with everything feels a bit small, but it’s necessary so that the levels don’t stretch on forever.  The sound effects, however, hearken back more to the 8 bit era and can get annoying, especially when you bounce around a lot in a tight area.  The music is decent enough, but it’s very subtle and sometimes you’ll likely think there is nothing playing in the background.  It would be nice if there were a bit more variety to the music as well.

Blockadillo is a fun platform / breakout hybrid.  It’s certainly a combination that sticks out from the crowd, and it has solid game play to back up that uniqueness.  It can get frustrating at times, and the bonus area scrolls are particularly challenging to find, but the game actually makes it worth trying.  The audio department in particular could use a bit of a facelift, but overall Blockadillo hits all the marks of a good game.


App Summary
Title: Blockadillo Developer: Michael Olp
Reviewed Ver: 0.5.0 Min OS Req:  iOS 6.0
Price: $0.99 App Size: 64.43MB
  • Unique platform / breakout hybrid
  • 80 levels to master
  • 21 achievements to earn
  • Cool 16 bit console visuals
  • Decent music
  • Split second freeze issue has caused many a lost level
  • Scrolls are difficult to find
  • Sound effects can get annoying
  • Needs more variety in music


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Unkilled Rises To The Challenge Wed, 30 Sep 2015 03:25:52 +0000 Madfinger Games has been on the iOS scene since 2009, and I’d say they’ve got the first / third person shooter formula down pretty good at this point.  It started with Shadowgun, which was one of the few third person shooters I’ve really gotten into on any platform, and then they moved to the Dead … Read more]]>


Madfinger Games has been on the iOS scene since 2009, and I’d say they’ve got the first / third person shooter formula down pretty good at this point.  It started with Shadowgun, which was one of the few third person shooters I’ve really gotten into on any platform, and then they moved to the Dead Trigger series.  Now they’ve unleashed Unkilled on us, and it’s clear they’ve refined the game mechanics they established in their previous zombie franchise.  Apparently I’m not the only one that feels this way, because the game has been downloaded more than 3 million times since its release.


What personally appeals to me about Unkilled is that it’s an FPS that is truly designed for mobiles.  The missions are short, so you can play one or two when you can squeeze in the time or you can play a whole bunch at once if you want.  The auto fire makes for a smooth controlling experience, and “purists” can still have their manual fire option if they wish.  From a design point of view it’s nice that you’re actually fighting alongside other soldiers, which surprisingly is a tactic that is still not very widely used in this type of game.  And the best part for me is that while it looks really good it still runs quite nicely on my aging iPad 2.  It’s getting a lot harder to find that combination in visually intense games these days.

So if you’re into numbers and statistics like me, Madfinger Games was kind enough to release some such data to celebrate their milestone of 3 million downloads.  I was just going to paste the text in here, but since they were kind enough to provide a cool infographic I thought I’d pass that along instead:


Of course what you really need to do is check it out for yourself.  Get the iOS version on the App Store, or treat your Android device via Google Play.

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