TouchMyApps All Things iPhone and iPad for those who like to Touch. iOS App reviews, News, New Apps, Price Drops and App Gone Free Thu, 08 Oct 2015 03:18:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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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Haunted Hotel: Death Sentence HD in Review: Playing It Was Anything But Mon, 28 Sep 2015 20:54:08 +0000 My latest outing in the world of adventure / hidden object games comes in the form of Haunted Hotel: Death Sentence HD from Big Fish Games.  My usual stomping ground for this style of game on the iOS platform is G5 Games, but it’s nice to see that when I do drift over to the … Read more]]>


My latest outing in the world of adventure / hidden object games comes in the form of Haunted Hotel: Death Sentence HD from Big Fish Games.  My usual stomping ground for this style of game on the iOS platform is G5 Games, but it’s nice to see that when I do drift over to the “other side” that the competition seems to keep up rather nicely.  I played the free version with a one time IAP to unlock the complete game as well as some extras (this is a collector’s edition).  It didn’t take long before I was eager to take the plunge and buy the game.  As a matter of fact, this is one of the few games I’ve played recently that I’ve managed to stick with and complete in a relatively short time from when I first started playing it.  I guess you could say I was convicted of curiosity and sentenced to find the outcome.  Or you could just say I really enjoyed the game.


There’s no doubt the story’s a bit cliché, at least in the beginning.  You’re summed to a mysterious building by a note claiming that your friend has died and the location, in this case a hotel, is to blame.  And, if you’re a fan of any police or lawyer procedurals then a lot more of the plot will seem familiar as well.  Now I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy the story, because it was fun learning how each character played a part in the proceedings.  And, while some might say they were still predictable there were a few twists and turns in the story, but by and large you’ve probably seen it all on TV in one form or another.  Still, it kept my attention for the whole game, and that’s all that matters to me.

Game play is pretty typical for this genre of game.  In fact, one of these days I think I’m just going to write a quick “here’s how you play a hidden object / adventure game” piece and link to it at the beginning of each of these reviews.  In the mean time, in case you don’t know, everything’s pretty much a matter of tapping or dragging.  Tap an object to pick it up and then drag it from your inventory to use it somewhere on the screen.  Sometimes an object will have a plus by it and if you tap on it in your inventory you’ll get a larger view of the item.  You will then be able to manipulate it by taking stuff away from it or adding stuff to it to get what you really need.  This is a technique that really enhances game play in my opinion, and I’m surprised that more games don’t take advantage of it.


To walk from scene to scene you tap on the area of the screen that looks like it connects you to another area, such as a door or window.  If you have the ability to go back you tap the lower part of the screen directly above the inventory bar… or at least that’s the theory.  There were times this didn’t work so well for me, and at other times – particularly when I was in a hidden object scene – I’d find myself going back when I didn’t want to.  One excellent feature of this game is the map, which allows you to move to any scene you’ve already visited that isn’t somehow blocked simply by tapping on the desired room.  Occasionally it’s a bit hard to tap just the right spot in certain rooms, but if you get used to using this feature you’ll save yourself a lot of time.  Plus, the map has the added benefit of marking where you need to go next to complete your task, or at least that’s the case in casual mode.

Some of the hidden object scenes are your typical “here’s a list, find everything”.  What I appreciated about these scenes is that I’m pretty sure each one had at least one instance where you had to manipulate multiple items in order to get the item you were truly after. There were a couple of times when picking up the intermediate items was a bit problematic, but I love the concept and think every hidden object game should employ it.  This game went further, however, in that some scenes had the objects in groups of three, and each time you found a group it revealed an item that could be used elsewhere in the scene.  Finally, there were some scenes where there were several pairs of like items, and you had to move things out of the way to find these items and match the pairs.  It was basically like a mini memory match game.


As for the mini-games, there was a decent variety throughout the game, including a couple that I either hadn’t seen before or were presented differently than what I’m used to.  Unfortunately, there were a couple of times where I had problems controlling the mini-games, one of which bothered me because it was actually one I hadn’t seen before.  I ended up skipping that and one other mini-game, which I really do in these adventures, and there was even one instance towards the end where the mini-game was abruptly solved and I was sure I hadn’t hit the skip button.  Overall I would have been just fine without the mini-games in this particular adventure.

Being a collector’s edition, the developers did throw a few extras into the mix.  Once you complete the main game there is a bonus adventure, which while entertaining was rather short and almost felt rushed, kind of like they just tacked in on because they had to since it was a collector’s edition.  There was also a wallpaper section, an area with concept art and a place to listen to some of the songs from the game.  My favorite parts of the Extras were the Character Figures and Esrael’s Antiques sections.  The first contains statues of all the characters in the game, and when you click on them it gives you a brief description of who they are.  The second is filled with special items that you can collect during the game if you happen to spot them.  When you tap on them in the extras area it will explain what they are actually about.  Overall the Extras section is a nice overview of various aspects of the game and worth exploring at least once.


One thing I’ve come to expect from Big Fish hidden object games is a high level of quality in the visual department, and Death Sentence doesn’t disappoint.  The backgrounds are top notch, with plenty of details and objects that are easily identifiable.  The cut scenes are fairly decent as well, though like many of these games the characters in the cut scenes often movie a bit odd, somewhat reminiscent of animation from the 60’s or early 70’s.  Still, when you see static images of the characters they look great.  The sound effects really help the game come to life, and the developers did a nice job casting the voices for the characters.  I particularly like the guy that does Esrael.  The music is well written, and while there’s nothing overly scary about the game, there are times when the music can be haunting, and that does just as good a job of setting the mood.

Haunted Hotel: Death Sentence HD is another fine addition to the growing stable of hidden object adventures available on the App Store from Big Fish Games.  It occasionally suffers from the same things that plague most other hidden object games, but it also excels in all the things it should.  It might not be the perfect adventure game, but it’s one of the best I’ve played in a while.


App Summary
Title: Haunted Hotel: Death Sentence HD – A Supernatural Hidden Objects Game Developer: Big Fish Games, Inc
Reviewed Ver: 1.0.0 Min OS Req:  iOS 6.0
Price: Free App Size: 1331.26MB
  • Interesting, if bit cliche, story
  • Solid game play with nice tweaks to standard mechanics
  • Decent collection of extras
  • Great visuals
  • Good voice casting
  • Well written, sometimes haunting music
  • Hard to manipulate objects in some hidden object scenes
  • Certain mini-games needed tweaking
  • Bonus chapter felt “tacked on”


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10 App Store Games To Watch [9/25/15] Fri, 25 Sep 2015 13:34:26 +0000 No, I haven’t ordered an iPhone 6 anything yet, and I have no plans on getting an iPad Pro right now (I have enough problems with my hands going numb using my regular sized iPad).  I also haven’t scored an Apple Watch yet.  I do, however, have 10 more games to tell you about.  As … Read more]]>


No, I haven’t ordered an iPhone 6 anything yet, and I have no plans on getting an iPad Pro right now (I have enough problems with my hands going numb using my regular sized iPad).  I also haven’t scored an Apple Watch yet.  I do, however, have 10 more games to tell you about.  As my passion for match 3 / RPG hybrids had finally started to burn out I found Hero Emblems, and now I’m addicted once again.  Thanks a lot, @AppUnwrapper.  If Breakout style games are your thing you’ll definitely want to try out Sketch Breaker.  You can put the paddle wherever you want, and it has some of the most unique board designs this side of Anodia.  I even managed to dig up another online game I enjoy called Walking War Robots.  Giant robots, no idle banter and the chance that I can actually come out on top occasionally is a winning combination.


Walking War Robots [4/15/14] – Once again I’m digging in the archives just a bit.  In this case it’s to help further one of my many secondary goals for this article, which is to provide the reader with fun online games for people that don’t like online games.  The game flow is simple: select “To Battle”, and when you’ve been connected to a match decide which robot you’ll use.  Each team has 6 players and the teams get dropped onto opposite sides of the field.  Your job is either to take out all of the opposition or capture and hold the most beacons for the duration of the match.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the clock completely run down to zero, but at some point the game will declare one side the winner.  You’ll earn some coins, and the top three players on the winning side get gold as well.  Coins are used to buy new robots and equipment or upgrade what you have, while gold is used to speed up the upgrade process or buy more slots so you can acquire additional robots.  The graphics aren’t the most advanced around, but they look good and more importantly the game runs pretty smoothly on my increasingly worn out iPad 2.  What takes the cake for me, though, is the fact that you can pop in, play your match and pop out without being social.  While that seems counter-intuitive for an online game, that’s just how I like things.  Besides, in game where you can have someone pummel you with bullets from point blank range and ultimately come out on top is okay in my book.

Walking War Robots Pixonic LLC, Walking War Robots – Free


Wormarium Arcade [9/9/15] – Wormarium was released back in June, and to be honest I’m not sure what the big differences are between that original release and Wormarium Arcade other than the fact that this version is F2P.  When the original was released I had a hard time recommending it because while I enjoyed the concept, the game went from fun and challenging to impossible and frustrating in the course of one level.  While I can imagine the same thing happening here, at least you can try it first to see if it’s your cup of tea before you spend the $2.99 on the full version (or spend some IAP on this one).  Anyway, the game itself is about you directing the course of a worm to fill up some tunnels without getting caught by the mischievous moles.  Generally you can only move forward, so you need to make sure you turn down the right paths to outwit the moles, and I can tell you from experience these moles are more deceptive than they appear.  One thing offered in this version and apparently introduced in the full version after I gave up is two power ups: one to temporary stun a mole (though you still can’t run into it head first), and another to backtrack so you can change your route.  There are plenty of collectibles to acquire and 19 achievements to earn.  The visuals are cute, and I love the animations when you give up and the mole makes you the appetizer.  Not everyone will appreciate the difficulty level, but if you like “easy to learn, hard to master” and especially if you’re in need of family friendly games, Wormarium Arcade is a good choice.

Wormarium Arcade Trompo Games Inc., Wormarium Arcade – Free


The Hit Car [6/13/15] – Welcome to another Flappy Bird.  Sure the game play is nothing like that of the fidgety avian, but it’s one of those games that’s incredibly difficult yet keeps you coming back for more.  Although in this case I actually do find myself wanting to keep playing.  Basically you drive a vehicle around a location, attempting to run down all the zombies while avoiding anything that’s solid enough to stop your progress.  The thing is, you can only turn left and right by tapping the appropriate sides of the screen, and you have no brakes or reverse to get you out of a bind.  You also don’t get any coins unless you run over crates and then run over the coins to collect them.  Needless to say it makes that “cheap” 15 coin upgrade a challenge to acquire.  At this point the game is pretty sparse in terms of content.  There are 2 areas, each with their own vehicle.  There are a couple of weapons to buy and a few upgrades to the ammunition capacity of your vehicle.  Game Center provides a mere 5 achievements and 2 leaderboards, one for each area.  Thankfully the iTunes description promises more of everything, and with a bit of substance I think The Hit Car has a lot of potential.

The Hit Car Adrian Kumorowski, The Hit Car – Free


Sketch Breaker [8/26/15] – If you like Breakout style games you really need to try Sketch Breaker.  The premise is that imps have gotten mixed up in your paintings and you need to set them free.  Unfortunately in order to accomplish this goal you’ll have to dismantle each of the works of art using a ball and paddle.  Unlike most games in this genre your paddle is not fixed to a particular area of the screen – simply draw a line where you want the paddle to appear.  You just need to make sure that you let go of the screen before the ball gets to the paddle or it will pass right through.  If you strike the same color area three times in a row then the next hit to that color (without hitting another color first) will reward you with extra points and paint residue that you can collect to level up your skill.  There are a couple of power ups you can buy at the beginning of a level, but most of your power ups come from freeing the imps from the colorful prison.  Thanks to Game Center you have 5 leaderboards to rank up on as well as 26 achievements to earn.  There are currently four worlds with plenty of levels between them, and a “coming soon” area teases even more levels in the future.  The other thing Sketch Breaker has going for it is one of the coolest theme songs I’ve ever heard for a Breakout style game.

Sketch Breaker FDG Mobile Games GbR, Sketch Breaker – Free


Escape Alcatraz – Devious Escape Puzzler [9/4/15] – When it comes to adventure games the “room escape” sub-genre seems to dominate the playing field, at least from the perspective of quantity.  The problem is that due to the general lack of a story, most of the feel the same after a while.  Escape Alcatraz is a very creative exception to that rule.  As you might have guessed, the goal is to break out of the iconic prison.  In order to do that you’ll have to complete a series of mini-games that will help you acquire all the items you need for your early exit.  Instead of just collecting items in one spot and using them in another, however, the mini-games take advantage of the extended capabilities of your device.  Warning: minor spoiler ahead.  If you want to knock something off of a table, swipe it to the floor.  Tilt your device to keep things in balance when needed.  There’s enough of a variety in the way you have to solve the various puzzles that it doesn’t feel like any other escape game I’ve ever played.  There were a couple of times when it wasn’t quite obvious what you should do, but for the most part the challenge comes in figuring out how to solve the puzzles, not where to start.  The game is divided into two sections, the first of which you get for free and the second you either have to pay for or complete a “special offer” to unlock.  Whichever way you choose to complete the journey, it’s worth it to have your Tim Robbins moment.

Escape Alcatraz - Devious Escape Puzzler FreshGames, LLC, Escape Alcatraz – Devious Escape Puzzler – Free


Hero Emblems [1/8/15] – Like most genres that were once exciting and creative on the iOS platform, the match 3 / RPG hybrid has grown somewhat repetitive and uninspired.  Thankfully I’m still such a fan of the genre that I try as many of them as I can, which gives me great pleasure when I run across one like Hero Emblems.  I’m not going to say that I’ve seen anything completely revolutionary so far, but what it does it handles extremely well.  Whether it be one eyed bats, energetic beavers or boss characters with bad attitudes, there’s a great bestiary to deal with.  Combat is handled in waves, and the board doesn’t actually get reset between each wave, which can be either a blessing or a problem depending on how you manage it.  Treasure chests give you plenty of loot if you get them open or they’ll take a bite out of you if you take too long to get the keys.  Defeat passive gnomes to score some treasure as well.  As you defeat monsters and complete quests you’ll level up.  You’ll also be able to acquire skills and emblems to boost your characters’ fighting prowess.  There’s plenty of overworld map to cover, and there’s even a decent story that unfolds along the way.  The visuals and animation are great, and the music’s not even that bad if you ignore the slightly repetitive nature.  If you’re in the market for the next match 3 / RPG fix, Hero Emblems is the perfect choice.

Hero Emblems CHUN LUNG KUO, Hero Emblems – $3.99


Raider Rush [9/2/15] – What do you get when you take a pixilated Indy with no iconic hat or bull whip and make him collect coins in a trap laden tower while avoiding a deadly upward flow of lava?  If you said Raider Rush then I really need to come up with some tougher questions.  I was honestly ready to delete this after the first time I played it, but I decided to give it a second chance and now I find myself thoroughly enjoying my little interludes of hair pulling frustration as I try to scale one room after the next.  Your mission is to escape a series of rooms within a tower, each one filled with brutal traps and a bad lava leak.  All you can do is jump left or jump right, and if you’re close enough to the edge of a landing the game will grab on for you automatically.  The length of your touch determines how far you jump, but once you’ve selected a direction you’ll keep running until something gets in your way or you jump the other direction.  The fact that you automatically jump when switching directions takes a bit of getting used to, but it also gives the game a unique feel.  From spikes to blades to deadly spears, each level is chock full of nasty obstacles to pass.  In addition to simply completing a room there is a coin to find on each level, but that’s for the skilled, twitch happy individuals only.  Thankfully you can revisit levels later on to recover unclaimed loot.  You get one tower for free, and through IAP you can unlock a second tower as well as infinite mode.  The game offers 3 leaderboards and 11 achievements through Game Center, and Raider Rush will definitely make you work for those achievements.

Raider Rush Wilhelm Clemm, Raider Rush – Free


Evolution Planet [9/19/15] – This is one of those games where you combine three items to make a bigger or better item.  Based on the name you’ve probably guessed that in this case you’re “evolving” animals.  What I like about this game as opposed to most others of its type is that instead of just playing until you’ve filled up the board, in Evolution Planet you actually have levels with goals.  Depending on how well you do on your way to accomplishing those goals you’ll earn between 1 and 3 stars for the level.  Collect gems so that you can move creatures around the board and gather special items to boost your score.  On some levels you’ll have to fight bad guys and even big bosses, and on other levels you’ll need to free your trapped comrades.  Hook up with your friends on Facebook to watch them evolve or give them a heart when they are running low.  There are currently 6 worlds to visit, each with plenty of levels to conquer.  The characters are colorful and well animated, providing a nice family atmosphere.  Evolution Planet is an object merging game with a purpose, which is just what this genre needed.

Evolution Planet Play Wireless, Evolution Planet – Free


The Biking Dead: Survival Course Simulator [9/16/15] – The Biking Dead takes extreme biking to a level 6 feet under.  As a zombie biker you’ll have to traverse some death defying courses, take out your undead fans along the way.  You’ll collect pink diamonds, consume brains to keep your energy up, and evade lots of guns that are shooting at you so you can last longer.  As you complete missions or watch advertisement videos you’ll earn green emeralds, and you’ll be able to use both types of gems to unlock additional items or upgrade what you have.  There are several different bikes and suits to buy, each of which has upgradable specs.  You can also acquire different heroes (ie: head swap, since you are a zombie) that give you special bonuses.  There are 5 different courses, each with their own set of missions and level up counter.  You can freely switch between any of the unlocked courses whenever you want.  Besides the missions there is a leaderboard in Game Center so you can see how miserably you compare against the top riders.  While I’m not a huge fan of rag doll physics it just seems to make sense you add in the zombie element.  I’m still trying to figure out how you manage to pedal the bike when a gun has shot off your legs, though.

The Biking Dead: Survival Course Simulator Space Inch, LLC, The Biking Dead: Survival Course Simulator – Free


The Moaning Words – Trading Card Game in the Cthulhu Mythos [12/20/13] – I’m raiding the vaults again, but I didn’t even know about this one until a few weeks ago.  The game is written by Alan Dean Foster and firmly entrenched in the Cthulhu mythos.  The “action” in the game takes place via a 3×3 grid where you place your cards in such a way that the numbers on the side next to your opponent’s cards are bigger than theirs so you can capture them.  The player with the most cards at the end of the battle wins the match.  There’s also a story mode that plays out like a gamebook adventure where the majority of your choices are driven by your remaining action and sanity points.  Win gold and Elder Signs so that you can buy some nifty cards and additional tools to help you in your journey.  Once you’ve completed or if you want to take a break from the solo missions you can tackle other players PvP style.  If you’ve always fancied yourself a budding storyteller you can even try your hand at creating your own gamebook story that can be shared with other users and rated by them.  And for those of you that just have to have Game Center, The Moaning Words has 11 leaderboards and 22 achievements to earn.  It’s time to get your moan on.

The Moaning Words - Trading Card Game in the Cthulhu Mythos Thumbstar Games Ltd, The Moaning Words – Trading Card Game in the Cthulhu Mythos – 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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Colopl Gearing Up To Tell A Rune Story Fri, 25 Sep 2015 00:19:56 +0000 Colpol might not be a household name in America, but they’ve certainly been busy on the App Store with more than 100 games available for download.  I’ve actually mentioned several of their games in my “10 App Store Games To Watch” articles over time.  One thing I’ve noticed about their catalog is they seem to … Read more]]>


Colpol might not be a household name in America, but they’ve certainly been busy on the App Store with more than 100 games available for download.  I’ve actually mentioned several of their games in my “10 App Store Games To Watch” articles over time.  One thing I’ve noticed about their catalog is they seem to focus on simple casual games, which is perfectly fine for a mobile market.  It looks like their starting to expand their scope, however, both in content and location.  Colopl is gearing up to open a North American division of their company, and their first release is going to be an action / RPG called Rune Story.

The game will be a story driven, quest based affair, but you’ll be able to hook up with up to three other players to take on epic bosses that would otherwise make you curl up in a corner and cry.  There will be more than 100 character and weapon combinations to unlock, so those that are into grinding and collecting should feel right at home.  There’s also going to be a city building element lest you feel like you’re cheating on your Clash of Clans time.  It definitely sounds like an ambitious project for the folks at Colopl, but if the preliminary video is any indication I think the players will be happy with the results.

No release date has been set yet as far as I’m aware, so if you head on over to the site and pre-register now you’ll receive a special Rune Sword when the game is made available worldwide.

Rune Story home page

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Tiny Empire in Review – Cute And Challenging Wed, 09 Sep 2015 16:28:26 +0000 I’m willing to admit that I loved Angry Birds right along with everyone else when it first came out.  After umpteen sidetracks and licenses, however, I found the sequel to be too little too late.  I still think the general mechanics of the Angry Bird style game work, but I’m tired of being angry.  That’s … Read more]]>


I’m willing to admit that I loved Angry Birds right along with everyone else when it first came out.  After umpteen sidetracks and licenses, however, I found the sequel to be too little too late.  I still think the general mechanics of the Angry Bird style game work, but I’m tired of being angry.  That’s where Tiny Empire comes in.  You’re still trying to get rid of the bad guys by flinging objects at them, but in this case you simply need to take out the enemy, and not destroy everything in sight.  It’s a simpler approach, but I’ve found my time with Tiny Empire so far much more fulfilling than my outing with the latest avian adventures.  Besides, tiny equals cute, and I like cute.


In this fantasy based approach to the physics based flinging puzzler you must help a king defend his land against golems, orcs and more.  The thing is, you’ll have to champion this fight on your own, because the rest of the king’s soldiers seem content with doing nothing more than getting in the way of your dangerous cannonballs.  Thankfully with a little skill and some luck you can get around them, though even if you take out one or two in the process of your defense you can still complete a level.  On the other hand, you do have to take out every bad guy on each level, or you basically fail and have to repeat the level over again.  Of course each level has 3 tokens (either stars or diamonds) that you can earn, and while casualties of friendly fire don’t keep you from passing a level, they’ll certainly guarantee that you don’t get your maximum reward.

In typical object flinging fashion, you control your cannon simply by dragging from the cannon to where you want to shoot, adjusting the length and height of your finger for distance and arc.  When the cannon is on the left side of the board this works just fine, but it seems like if the cannon is in the center or worse yet on the right side of the field, your hand tends to block the display as you’re crossing the screen.  I know it technically works the same when going from left to right, but while that feels natural the other configurations seem a bit awkward.


You start the game with one type of cannonball, but as you progress through the levels you’ll earn a fireball that covers more ground with its damage as well as a cannonball that provides for a more precise shot.  It would be nice if you could choose what order to use your ammunition in, but since you can’t you’ll just have to make the order work to your advantage.  In addition to the different types of ammunition you’ll have two power ups to help you in your quest: shields protect each soldier on the battlefield from one errant shot, while targeting gives you the ability to see exactly where your shot will land for one attempt at a level.  The beauty of these bonuses is that they don’t affect your ability to earn tokens, so it’s definitely to your benefit to take advantage of them to earn 3 tokens on the more difficult levels.

Using each of these bonuses requires gems, but there are several ways to get those.  Naturally you can spend some cash on IAP if you’d like, but you also randomly get gems from certain foes when they die.  Occasionally goblins will pop up on the field, and if you blast them you’ll get 40 gems.  Finally, you’ll uncover gem mines along your route which will earn you some gems every so many hours.  Between all these sources you shouldn’t run out of currency unless you’re constantly buying bonuses.


In addition to the three tokens on each level, there are several different cannons and helmets to collect either by earning a certain number of tokens or using the gems that you’ve collected.  Unfortunately these “upgrades” are purely aesthetic at this point, but hopefully that will change some time down the road.  There are also 17 achievements to earn via Game Center, though most of them revolve around simply completing the different areas of the game.

Tiny Empire might describe the kingdom, but it also gives you a fair idea of the inhabitants.  They may not really be that tiny, but it just seems that way given the visuals.  But, as I mentioned in the beginning, tiny equals cute, and I like cute.  The character graphics are actually pretty neat, with good designs and decent animations when the characters get struck by the various types of ammunition.  What did disappoint me, however, were the backgrounds.  They felt somewhat simplistic, which was particularly sad given the detail in the world map.  There we see birds flying around, fish swimming in the water and even little animations on the levels that you have as yet to conquer.  The sound effects helped bring the world to life, but I think the game needs more.  The creatures are too quiet unless they are actually the recipients of a cannonball.  The music is decent enough, but the medieval fair tunes are easily forgettable once you stop playing for a while.


Like most games, Tiny Empire isn’t without its flaws.  But, given that this particular genre seems to be waning in popularity, it’s nice to have an alternative to the ever growing birds regime that’s actually fun to play.  If we’re lucky, maybe this will grow into its own franchise to keep that alternative alive for a while.  Or if nothing else, some extra levels down the road to lengthen this experience would be just fine with me.


App Summary
Title: Tiny Empire Developer: Mother Gaia Studio
Reviewed Ver: 1.1.3 Min OS Req:  iOS 6.0
Price: $2.99 App Size: 70.54MB
  • Great alternative to Angry Birds
  • Plenty of levels to conquer
  • Steady supply of in-game currency without IAP
  • Cool pixel characters
  • Fun sound effects
  • Hand can get in the way of the battlefield
  • Can’t choose order of ammo
  • Various collectibles don’t enhance game play
  • Needs more memorable music


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10 App Store Games To Watch [9/7/15] Tue, 08 Sep 2015 01:32:00 +0000 As usual I’ve tried to provide you with a list of entertaining games to play, but the big surprise this week is that two of them are based off of iconic licenses and manage to transcend their genres to provide extremely fun games.  Ghostbusters Puzzle Fighter takes the extremely over-saturated match 3 genre, adds in … Read more]]>


As usual I’ve tried to provide you with a list of entertaining games to play, but the big surprise this week is that two of them are based off of iconic licenses and manage to transcend their genres to provide extremely fun games.  Ghostbusters Puzzle Fighter takes the extremely over-saturated match 3 genre, adds in plenty of incarnations of the Ghostbusters franchise and treats the whole thing with enough respect to make it a worth addition to the most avid match 3 player’s sprawling collection.  Spider-Man Unlimited tackles the Temple Run style infinite runner in much the same way, and the incorporation of multiple versions of Spider-Man and his most famous villains is a great touch.  On a non-licensed note, one of the best strategy games to hit the App Store in some time made the list as well in the form of Galactic Keep.  If you want to learn more about what went into this game, check out my interview with one of the development team here.


Sheeperzzz [8/19/15] – Sheeperzzz is a cute game.  To be honest, it doesn’t really add anything new to its peer group, at least not from what I’ve seen.  You control a sheep, and your job is to round up as many sheep as you can by jumping over them to wake them up.  You can tap to jump or hold to double jump, and the key to longevity is in determining when to do each and then simply getting your timing right.  There’s not even any background music, which is really a shame.  But, as a father of three kids, I always appreciate family friendly games that have at least an inkling of being fun, and I think Sheeperzzz qualifies.  The graphics are neat, the sheep are cute, and there are some really cool moments, especially if you find a group of waterfalls in the randomly generated landscape.  There’s also a leaderboard for those that need such a thing.  I think if the developers threw in a bit more variety in what there was to jump over, some new landscapes and a few extra types of sheep, as well as added a bouncy soundtrack and a few achievements to earn, Sheeperzzz would be quite the family game.  It’s got a ways to go, but it’s definitely one to watch.

Sheeperzzz Ketchapp, Sheeperzzz – Free


Spin Dash – a fun twist for the impossible style games [7/14/15] – If jumping to avoid obstacles on a constantly spinning landscape is your thing, Spin Dash is your game.  What I like about it is that you’re not just jumping over random obstacles, but the landscape grows and fades away, and sometimes you’re actually in the middle of the world instead of on top of it, so watch out for those spikes overhead.  Speaking of heads, I think the original name (which also comes up on the splash screen) of “Are You In Over Your Head?” is more appropriate given the biggest gimmick of the game is the fact that if you allow it to use your camera then your face will literally be in the center of the action.  That novelty aside, there are plenty of characters to earn, each which comes with their own visual theme.  For every 100 gems you earn you can unlock a new character, or you can outright buy the ones you want immediately via IAP.  The game only has one leaderboard and 6 achievements, so most of your satisfaction will have to come from collecting all the characters and unlocking new worlds, but if you like this style of game play Spin Dash is certainly as addictive as the rest.

Spin Dash - a fun twist for the impossible style games MiniGamr, Spin Dash – a fun twist for the impossible style games – Free


Galactic Keep [8/19/15] – This is one of the most intriguing games to hit the App Store in quite some time.  You can call it a rogue-like, an RPG or a strategy game, but personally I think it’s hard to classify.  The board game style presentation gives it a unique flair, complete with rolling dice and character avatars that you could easily imagine represented by plastic board game pieces in the real world.  You have several characters to choose from, each of which has unique skills to bring to the table.  Choose one, roll your stats and let the exploration begin.  If a character dies you’re not out of luck, though.  Select another one and continue the search.  If you find the remains of your fallen foe you can send them back to base to recuperate for later use.   There are plenty of monsters to encounter and items to find, and along with your characters everything is represented by nicely detailed cards that again feel like they were ripped straight from a physical product.  While there are a number of sci-fi games out there the genre is still sadly underused except for in action and shooting games, and Galactic Keep does a great job of capturing the genre in a unique style of game play.  There is currently only a tutorial and one campaign, but you’ll still easily get 8-10 hours of game play your first time through, and despite being a story driven opus it’s fun to play more than once.  In a market of F2P and copycat titles it’s nice to see a pay once to play title that’s original and has such high production values.

Galactic Keep Gilded Skull Games, Galactic Keep – $3.99


Ghostbusters Puzzle Fighter [8/19/15] – Who you gonna call?  Not Paul Feig, that’s for sure.  Puzzle Fighter goes back to the roots as you explore the greatest moments from the original fab four’s journeys through one classic and one still pretty decent romp around New York city.  You’ll control all the old favorites including Venkman and Stantz, as well as plenty of other characters that have appeared in various incarnations of the Ghostbusters legend.  Take on the likes of Gozer, Vigo and more as you once again rid an unsuspecting city of all manner of apparitions.  You can have up to six team members on call at a time, three active in battle and three on reserve.  Each active battler has three unique skills that get powered up by matching certain colored gems on the playing field.  As you win battles you’ll earn cards that provide you with new team members or upgrades to your currently existing roster.  Once you’ve built up a solid team you can take on live players head to head as well.  The graphics are killer, taking familiar faces and giving them a modern look.  The music is awesome as well – I keep expecting to hear Ray Parker Jr.’s voice pipe up while the theme song is playing.  While I’d love to see a great mobile action game starring the Ghostbusters, for now I’ll just settle for a great mobile game.

Ghostbusters Puzzle Fighter Beeline Interactive, Inc., Ghostbusters Puzzle Fighter – Free


Blind Kiwi [8/24/15] – In this game your job is to lead the kiwis back to the safety of their nest in each of the 30 levels.  The thing is, these poor tots have never fully hatched from their eggs, so they can’t see a thing.  You’ll have to block or unblock their path by moving boxes, turn arrows to spin them in the right direction, and prime springs to launch them to new heights.  Your basic kiwi is pretty defenseless, but as you earn coins you’ll be able to unlock new kiwis that can do things like turn around, jump and even go to sleep for a bit.  These skills can also be added to the less talented kiwis, but that can be a bit expensive.  You can earn 3 golden eggs on each level: one for acquiring all the pick-ups, one for completing it in a certain amount of time, and the third simply for completing the level.  To complete the first two tasks on many levels you’ll definitely need all the skills at your disposal.  The 30 levels are spread across three countries (don’t let the flags fool you – they are level group selects, not language options).  There are currently no achievements or leaderboards to climb, but for a simple, enjoyable platform game with a cute leading character you could do a lot worse.

Blind Kiwi Signify Limited, Blind Kiwi – Free


Magic River [8/26/15] – I know, this is two Ketchapp games in one roundup.  That’s what happens when I don’t get to these roundups every week.  The thing is, for being a game where you simply tap to paddle left or right, this can get really addictive.  There are plenty of obstacles to dodge, and the fact that it doesn’t matter where you tap makes for somewhat of a brain teaser.  I often forget that the position doesn’t matter and think that if I tap on the left side of the screen I’ll turn left and tapping on the right will steer me towards the right.  This is one of the few games I’ve played that doesn’t work that way, so that presents a fun challenge in and of itself.  Thankfully there are also plenty of missions to keep you busy.  There are also lots of different driver / canoe combinations to unlock, which you can do every time you complete a certain number of missions or earn 100 coins.  The only thing I don’t care for is that you can’t choose which driver to unlock at any given milestone.  But, I just love seeing who I’m going to get to use next.  Also, despite the fact that I seem to die every 10 to 20 seconds, I actually find the game rather relaxing.  Between the music and the sounds of nature like the swoosh of water and frogs croaking the game is quite peaceful.  I may never be very good at the game, but it’s really fun to try.

Magic River Ketchapp, Magic River – Free


Twins Dash [8/19/15] – I’m pretty sure the working title for this was “how can we make Eric pull his hair out?”, but the developers were just worried that no one would know who Eric was.  You’ve played the game before – tap to jump over obstacles instead of running into them.  That’s it.  It’s amazing how difficult that task can be with one object to keep safe, but when you throw in a second one it’s time to thin out the hair a bit.  I’ve also discovered that either I have a worse sense of rhythm than Carlton from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, or this game doesn’t always follow the beat like games of this type often do.  That’s okay, though, because I’m pretty sure I’d die just as much if I had to follow the beat anyway.  The game offers 9 levels, which doesn’t sound like much, but given that after literally 100s of attempts I’ve at best made it through about 34% of the first level I think nine is a nice non-round number.  I do wish that there was some “I pity you” ceiling from the developer to where once you’ve died so many times the next level would unlock to provide you a varied torturous experience, but this way I just get to dream of how I’ll fail down the road.  The game has one leaderboard that appears to rank you based on percentage of the whole game you’ve completed, and there are currently no achievements.  The graphics are simple but effective, and the music is fun to listen to, unless you’ve died several hundred times in one level like me.  If you enjoy games that are impossible because of actual level design instead of just having bad controls, Twins Dash is a good game for you.

Twins Dash Thang Le, Twins Dash – $0.99


Spider-Man Unlimited [9/10/14] – The first comic I ever bought was an issue of one of the Spider-Man series at my local drug store.  Ever since then Spidey has been one of my favorite superheroes, but like most of the iconic characters he’s had a spotty history when it comes to video games.  I have to admit I was a bit disappointed when I found out this one was going to be a Temple Run style game, and when you first start playing it the game feels an awful lot like Minion Rush.  When you start swinging through the city in what almost feels like a distorted flappy bird setup, though, the game starts to take on a life of its own.  There are also scenes where you Spidey will free-fall in which case you just tilt the device back and forth to move.  What really sets this game apart from others of its ilk, however, is the story that is weaved while you’re playing.  There are seven “issues”, each with 25 levels, which cover some of Sider-Man’s most iconic villains.  You’ll constantly be in touch with Nick Fury, and the witty banter that ensues should make anyone familiar with the recent Spider-Man cartoons feel right at home.  Oh, and did I mention that you get to suck in Spider-Men from many different dimensions to help you in your quest?  Once you get past the base mechanics there’s really a lot of depth to this game, and they are continually adding more content.  If you’ve ever wanted to do what a spider can, now’s your chance.

Spider-Man Unlimited Gameloft, Spider-Man Unlimited – Free


The Path To Luma [8/13/15] – When you go to download this game you probably won’t recognize the publisher, but if you load it up on your device the developer might sound familiar.  Phosphor Games is responsible for Dark Meadow and Horn, two incredibly cool and stunning 3D games that actually run quite nicely on my iPad 2.  The Path To Luma continues that tradition, but is a decidedly different beast in terms of game play.  Thankfully it’s still cool, and it’s also completely free with no IAP.  You take on the role of SAM, and your job is to power the inhabitants of several planets by providing them with clean energy sources.  You’ll have to open gates, power batteries, turn bridges and even occasionally rotate part of the world itself in order to accomplish your goals.  More importantly, you’ll need to do all of this using the power of nature, like the sun and wind.  There are only 20 levels, so it shouldn’t take you too long to complete, but it’s fun while it lasts, it looks extremely cool, and maybe it will convince you to try one of those other two games I mentioned earlier if you haven’t taken the plunge on them already.

The Path To Luma NRG Energy, Inc., The Path To Luma – Free


Devious Dungeon 2 [4/8/15] – If you haven’t seen my review of the first installment of this series, you might want to check it out here.  The reason I say that is because it will give you a pretty good foundation for what Devious Dungeon 2 has to offer.  That’s not to say there aren’t any enhancements, however.  To start with there are now 3 classes to choose from, each with different starting values for the 3 player stats.  Each class also has a special ability, though the barbarian’s “ability” is simply handling damage better.  They also revamped the armor and weapon system, and while it’s still fairly structured it gives you more options at once.  The levels are still randomly generated, but instead of just being lumped into generic groupings this time they are actually arranged by sections of the castle, which gives you a better sense of traversing the world.  There are also nice little changes like areas where you walk through water (a fairly simple effect in a 2D game, but it adds the detail level of the game) and mini-bosses in each section.  Not only is this a worthy addition to the Devious Dungeon franchise, but if you haven’t indulged yet I’d suggest actually jumping straight to this chapter.

Devious Dungeon 2 Ravenous Games Inc., Devious Dungeon 2 – $1.99

Well that wraps up another edition of games to watch on the App Store. As always, if there’s something you’ve played recently that you feel should be part of this list, please leave a reply to this post. Previous weekly installments of our App Store Games Roundup:

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Castling in Review – You Got Your Chess In My Puzzle Game… Wed, 02 Sep 2015 16:33:21 +0000 When I was younger, most notably in high school, I liked to play chess once in a while.  The problem with a game like chess is it’s not easily accessible like checkers or most card games, so it can be hard to find folks that want to play with you.  Earlier this year my kids … Read more]]>


When I was younger, most notably in high school, I liked to play chess once in a while.  The problem with a game like chess is it’s not easily accessible like checkers or most card games, so it can be hard to find folks that want to play with you.  Earlier this year my kids started to gain an appreciation for the game, so when I came across Castling I thought it might appeal to both them and me.  The brilliance of Castling is that while it never presents a full game it teaches you how to move all the pieces, and it throws a nice bit of good old fashion puzzle strategy into the mix as well.  Add to that the entertaining representations of the different pieces and you have an instant classic for both chess lovers and puzzle gamers alike.


Just like in the game of chess, the object in Castling is to take out the king.  In this case, however, you must literally remove him from the board, unlike this game’s inspiration where you can simply “contain” him to win the game.  Typically this means getting one of your pieces onto the same square as the king, though on rare occasions there are other ways to eliminate the royal thorn in your side.  The trek won’t be easy, as the king often has some evil henchmen surrounding him.  Thankfully the opposition will only attack and not move around the board, so as long as you stay clear of a piece’s attacking pattern you’re okay.  Of course there are times when you may actually want to get attacked, though you always have to keep one of your pieces alive.

Besides the king and his minions, the path to victory is paved with many other obstacles.  Sometimes the path will be obscured with drawbridges that must be lowered by positioning a piece on a button.  In the second level set you’ll have to deal with ice, which is a slippery proposition, and sometimes even cracks under your weight.  In the third group of challenges you’ll have to have a keen eye for color, as certain gates can only be traversed by pieces of a certain hue.  Luckily you’ll be able to merge and split pieces as well as simply have them land on color changers in order to get the exact shade you’re looking for.  There is also a set of eight levels that just tests you to see how much you’ve learned from the first 60.  In order to navigate this wonderful world of “not quite chess” you just have to drag a piece from where it rests to where you want it to go.  The game is even kind enough to show you all the available moves you can make.


Castling is comprised of 60 levels spread across 3 worlds with an additional 8 level bonus which you unlock by completing the rest of the levels or posting on Facebook or Twitter about the game via in-app buttons.  Each level has three stars to collect and a special medal you can earn by completing a more challenging goal such as beating the level in a certain number of moves.  There are 21 achievements to earn via Game Center, but there’s no leaderboard since the only thing you could really compete on is overall time to complete and the game doesn’t time you in the first place.  This is a feature I really appreciate, by the way.

The backgrounds aren’t overly detailed or diverse, but the game looks good.  I particularly like how they’ve rendered the different chess pieces.  I could almost picture them making an animated movie with these characters not unlike such films as Cars or Finding Nemo.  It would be an unexpected subject for sure, but the depictions of the various pieces give them such character.  The sound effects help in that regards as well, especially when your pieces cheer after a victory or the various players start to yawn if you haven’t moved for a while.  There are some other miscellaneous effects throughout the game that provide some nice distraction in the background but don’t really seem to fit with the game.  It’s like someone left a “sounds of nature” CD running in the background.  There’s a halfway decent music track that plays during the menu, but sadly there is no music while you’re actually playing a level, which as I’ve said many times is a particularly bad thing when the game is slower paced like Castling.


Castling is a great puzzle game that’s blends the movements of chess with a completely different style of play.  Pure chess fiends might not find it as much of a thrill, but casual players as well as general puzzle freaks like myself should really enjoy it.  The puzzles are well thought out and often challenging without ever being impossible, and the atmosphere is cute but doesn’t feel too childish.  Some music during the levels would be nice, and maybe just a bit of animation in the background.  Otherwise this is a solid, worthwhile puzzle game.


App Summary
Title: Castling Developer: Oddlabs
Reviewed Ver: 1.0 Min OS Req:  iOS 7.0
Price: $0.99 App Size: 31.22MB
  • 60+ well designed levels
  • Nice blend of chess and puzzle solving
  • Cute character pieces
  • Nice sound effects for pieces
  • Background effects seem random and superfluous
  • No music during the levels


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Interview: Rob Lemon from Gilded Skull Games Sat, 29 Aug 2015 16:03:15 +0000 If I’m not careful I might start morphing into something resembling a journalist.  In what has shockingly become my second interview in under a month I decided to talk with Rob Lemon, art and design lead of Gilded Skull Games.  The company recently unleashed Galactic Keep on the App Store, a labor of love that … Read more]]>

Galactic Keep Logo

If I’m not careful I might start morphing into something resembling a journalist.  In what has shockingly become my second interview in under a month I decided to talk with Rob Lemon, art and design lead of Gilded Skull Games.  The company recently unleashed Galactic Keep on the App Store, a labor of love that has been six years in the making.  See what Rob had to say about what I feel is one of the most original games to hit the App Store in quite some time.

Concept Artwork

Concept Artwork

First of all, I want to offer the customary “thank you” for taking the time to talk with me.

Thanks for giving me this opportunity, there’s a lot to talk about!

Q1. So Rob, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and Gilded Skull Games?

Gilded Skull was started almost seven years ago now. I design the games, write them and create the art while the other half of Gilded Skull, Chris Sokol, programs them while refining the design. He keeps me from going too far overboard and helps to wrangle and re-process the unreasonable and outlandish ideas that I often have. We spend a lot of time bouncing ideas back and forth, refining them then implementing them. Chris is on one coast and I’m on the other and that’s likely one of the reasons why things have worked so well for us thus far.

Q1a. So you’re saying that if you worked together in the same office you’d drive each other nuts (laughs)?

Hard to say. Actually, we get along quite well when we have met up so who knows.

Oren'Sel Character Card

Choose Your Character

Q2. Galactic Keep is your third game on the App Store that’s actually been published under the Gilded Skull label, and it’s about as far removed from the other two products game play wise as one could imagine.  What influenced you to make this turn based, board game style strategy game?

This has always been the game that we sought to make. Galactic Keep was what sparked the company into existence. I grew up playing tabletop games and own a fairly extensive collection of classic sets, modules and rulebooks to this day.

I’m drawn towards gaming oddities like the almost immeasurably complicated board game Magic Realm (I own a complete copy but have never played!) and non-fantasy RPGs like Gamma World and Star Frontier. Re-reading D&D modules by Gygax years ago inspired me to start writing the basic foundation for the Galactic Keep universe and its cast of characters.

Q3. While there are certainly other games out there with similar length and pacing, what was the draw for designing a game that takes time and patience to play in a realm that’s focused on quick bouts of gaming on the go?

Our goal was to create a game that you could pop open on a train, get some loot, kill a weird creature and shut down. You can make some quick progress and then continue on with your day. We also wanted you to be able to sink into your couch and fire up the game for an extended play session. The game needed to be both because that’s how people play, at least that’s how I play.

The tutorial is a bit long and drawn out. There’s a lot of information to get through and we dispense it in a very granular way but you can quit out of it at (almost) any time if you feel you want to get going. After that, and it only takes a few minutes, there’s not a lot to hold you up. The game auto-saves all the time, with almost every action you take, so you are always progressing.

The Story Of Galactic Keep

Tell Me A Story

Q3a.  Interesting.  I never really thought of the game as a “quick fix”, but then maybe it’s just because I got hooked every time I fired it up.  So far, does it seem like people are taking both approaches as you suggest, or does the fan base by and large hit Galactic Keep in longer gaming sessions like me?

It seems that people are playing in long sessions but there has been some positive response to the iCloud save support and being able to switch between devices, playing the same game, so there are people who do play it that way. We wanted to be open to both play styles

Q4. What is one or two features that you’d like to especially highlight about the game?

We didn’t plan for the game to have an open world. We originally thought that it was going to be a linear but branching, choose-your-path type of game almost like a game book. As I re-read a pile of game modules it occurred to me that in trying to emulate the decision-making in an actual tabletop RPG, with a DM, we’d never be able to give the player enough choices to cover the infinite directions that they could take, so we scrapped that direction.

Instead of leading a player down a track of predetermined choices, a DM will leave the flow of the game open to the players, guiding them at key points. Describe the location, give a hint (or red herring) to pique the players curiosity and then let the players figure it out for themselves. That was what I set out to do. You’re dropped into this foreign universe, the stage is set and then you are left to explore and figure out the world for yourself.

Another great aspect of the game is that you are free to stumble into things that are off the beaten path. Sometimes, the best parts of a campaign might not be in the module storyline at all, they could be on a little side path the DM took you on, into an eerie location with a memorable character who said something that resonated with you in some way. We tried to allow that to happen in Galactic Keep.

Explore The Sewer (iPad)

Explore The Sewer

Q5. Given the 6 year development cycle, I think there’s no question that this could be considered a labor of love.  I know some people have compared it to Duke Nukem Forever in that regards.  So since I’m sure the question is burning in the back of some folks’ minds anyway, what took so long?

I’ll be honest, we never expected it to take this long.

When I first posted character designs and screenshots onto the interwebs I had just finished writing what I had originally thought would be the initial module of the game. At that time, the game was a long series of multiple-choice questions that lead to a variety of game endings. Based on your choices, you’d move in various directions on a map. Most directions and story turns ended in death but some of them would bring you, inevitably, to the one ‘good ending’. It was like a game book crossed with a roguelike.

As I figured out what the iPhone could do, I realized that this idea could be expanded a lot. The game began to evolve into more of an ‘arena adventure’ where you’d roll a character and take them into an arena to battle various opponents and possibly other players. We started building that and created a demo of sorts that we showed around a bit. People liked it, but it needed more depth and the newest hardware could handle that.

It was at that point that we shelved the idea to work on a more commercial project. As we developed that, I began rewriting Galactic Keep from the ground up. Once the other commercial game was complete, about a year later, we used the newly created outline to make the game into more or less what was released.

[my response] I’m glad you went the current route.  Not that I don’t like the modern crop of electronic gamebook adventures, but I feel the approach you took sets Galactic Keep apart from anything else out there.

I loved gamebooks as a kid and being able to read / play many of the exact same books that I played way back when in a digital format is amazing!

Level Map

Won’t Find This On MapQuest

Q6. In a market that’s being driven increasingly towards the F2P model, why make Galactic Keep a premium game?  Given it’s modular nature in both campaign and cards, it seems the perfect candidate for being F2P.

I’ve never really trusted free to play games. I feel that they’re (innately, based on the ‘free-to-play’ name) not upfront about needing you to pay for them. They aren’t free, someone has to pay or they will disappear.

For Galactic Keep we thought about following that road at one point but decided we didn’t feel right about that direction. That’s not to say that we wouldn’t have in-app-purchases in the future, but we wanted to have the core of the game sold at a set price.

[my response] Well I for one appreciate this approach.  And given the length and complexity of the built in module, I could still see paying a couple of bucks extra for new modules.

Q7. Now that the initial game is out, do you already have plans for future updates?

We do. The very first update, which was just submitted and has not been reviewed as of this writing, is all about bug fixing. Many more people are playing the game than ever have before and there was bound to be things that needed fixin’. Next, we have three main components that we held back so that we could launch: A way to swap characters easily, an item storage area that was accessible to all your characters and some sort of ‘mini-map’ or zoom out feature. After that’s released, we plan to work on adding more content. We currently have several modules in various states of completion. We’d like to continue to work on the game, expanding on it, for a long time.

We are also discussing a PC version with third parties and the possibility of bringing the game to other platforms and consoles.

[my response] Well I for one hope you do get the chance to work on this for a long time.  And I’m very excited to hear about the mini-map!

Q8. Do you have another casual game in mind for when you need a break from Galactic Keep enhancements?

We have several game engines that we could use to create a casual game at this point but no, there’s nothing else in the works. We’re going to try to focus on this, our core brand.

Board Game Mockup

Physical Board Game Mock-up

Q9. So given the board / card game inspiration for Galactic Keep, would you ever consider making a physical interpretation of the game, whether it be a full blown board game or some type of card game?

A lot of people have asked if this was based on a printed product (that was lost in obscurity). We have thought about it and went so far as to create a mock-up product a while back. We haven’t pursued publishers or anything like that but it would make a lot of sense. You never know!

[my response] Wow, that’s pretty awesome.  I think I can speak for all the fans in saying thanks for sharing that bit of background.

Thanks for your time, and I really wish you the best with Galactic Keep.

We sincerely appreciate the support that we’ve had so far. Thank you!

Galactic Keep Gilded Skull Games, Galactic Keep – $3.99

Note: This interview was conducted via email.  Also, Galactic Keep actually runs quite nicely on an iPad 2, which is great news for me.

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Light In The Dark in Review – A Glowing Puzzle Game Wed, 26 Aug 2015 22:12:36 +0000 Light In The Dark is one of those puzzle games where you have to light things up using various colors.  It’s been done before, but what makes this one work is the cute atmosphere.  Of course it doesn’t hurt that there are some well designed levels to go along with the kooky story and silly … Read more]]>


Light In The Dark is one of those puzzle games where you have to light things up using various colors.  It’s been done before, but what makes this one work is the cute atmosphere.  Of course it doesn’t hurt that there are some well designed levels to go along with the kooky story and silly characters.  I’m not a huge fan of this particular type of puzzle game, but Light In The Dark has managed to win me over for now.


In Light In The Dark you control these odd but cute creatures that have lost their kids inside a crazy temple full of rooms with quirky designs.  To make matters worse the tykes have all fallen asleep, and the only way to wake them up and bring them home is to bathe them in the light that emanates from the adults’ bodies.  Don’t let the child like premise fool you, though.  There’s definitely plenty of challenge to be had for adults in this game, and the silly characters that appeal to kids are just a bonus for anyone with children that need to move beyond basic educational games.

To move the critters you simply drag them with your finger.  This also applies to movable crates and mirrors, both of which can be used to block and redirect beams of light as appropriate.  With mirrors you might also have the opportunity to spin them which requires tapping on them to get the rotation handles, and then dragging those handles in the direction you want to rotate the mirror.  The controls are pretty user friendly, but there are times where you try and grab something and the game seems to not do what you’re expecting it to.  Given the precise nature of the game it can be frustrating occasionally, but it’s certainly not a pervasive problem.


The world you get with the game is comprised of 5 tombs that each contains 20 levels and 4 bonus levels.  It seems like each new level offers some new mechanic or at least a different combination of mechanics, and whether or not you like some of the levels it’s obvious they put a lot of thought into the design.  Initially the babies and the adult are all the same color, and then you get multiple adults and babies of different colors so you have to make sure the colors don’t cross.  Then there are babies that are a combination of colors and white babies that have to be touched by the light of every adult in the room.  Add to that the mummies that don’t like light on them at all, switches that are manipulated by the presence and absence of light, and so on and you can see how getting everything lined up just right can be tricky on some levels.

The game rewards you with up to three stars per level, but of course you actually have to get those by shining light on them as well.  Stars are needed to unlock bonus levels and additional tombs, but thankfully once you’ve unlocked a tomb you can start on it without finishing the previous one.  On the down side, within a tomb you do have to finish a level before moving on to the next one.  In addition to saving the babies and collecting stars you get a best time and lowest number of moves for each level.  I guess this is for your own personal gratification, because there are no leaderboards that I’ve found which take advantage of these two values.  There are, however, 54 achievements via Game Center, so if you’re like me that’s actually a better reward.


If you hadn’t seen this coming yet, the visuals in this game are cute.  Everything is well drawn, the visuals have plenty of details, and the animation makes the main characters look perky and even helps the mummies seem not so bad.  The sound effects are decent overall, and the cheerful squeals the kids make when they wake up in the glow of their parents’ light really encourages you to keep on pressing on.  The music is fun for a while, but I’m pretty sure it’s the exact same tune on every level, so it does get old before too long.

As puzzle games go, the bending light through a maze style challenge ranks pretty low on my desire list, but Light In The Dark has managed to capture my time anyway.  The cute atmosphere, challenging puzzles and constant addition of new elements gives you a reason to keep on coming back.  Now if those kids could just stop wandering away…


App Summary
Title: Light in the Dark Developer: Dreamgate Studios
Reviewed Ver: 2.0.2 Min OS Req:  iOS 6.0
Price: $1.99 App Size: 92.41MB
  • Lots of levels to master
  • New puzzle elements added frequently
  • Family friendly atmosphere
  • Cute graphics and sound effects
  • Controls are occasionally finicky
  • Can’t skip challenging levels
  • Only one musical track


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