In ‘Bean’s Quest’, a delightful platformer by Kumobius, you play as Emilio, who has been transformed into a Mexican Jumping Bean and his girlfriend and pets taken away by a dark wizard. The game was originally released in mid-July with just eight levels, but has since been continuously updated by the developers to now include fifty levels. The latest update added 23 new levels and finished the story. Bean’s Quest mixes around between traditional platforming elements and a truly unique and creative execution.
The controls are very simple in ‘Bean’s Quest’: touch the left side of the screen to move left and the right side to go right. This is combined with the fact that you are constantly jumping, so you have to time your movements accordingly. The controls work flawlessly, though for those heavily accustomed to normal platformers, the jumping mechanic will take time to get used to. The gameplay and controls work perfectly together in creating a truly unique experience. Different gameplay elements, like enemies, giant wheel-like objects, and tiny blocks help you along the way, even causing some levels to feel like a mix between physics puzzlers and platformers. ‘Bean’s Quest’ is a very fun and enjoyable game, bringing wildly new elements to a somewhat-standardized genre.
The graphics feel very fitting as well, with a nifty semi-pixelized look. It feels like the perfect blend between retro and modernized graphics. The game looks how you’d want it to by playing it: retro streaked with a cool, new-age flair to it. Different worlds have different looks, giving a nice change-of-pace between them. The music feels as great as I could imagine, with a chiptune-like soundtrack mixed with the Spanish flair fitting of a Mexican Jumping Bean. Each world also has a separate music number. As a whole, ‘Bean’s Quest’ presents itself in a method pleasing to both the eyes and ears.
If I were reviewing this game before any updates, the game would definitely be lacking in this category. But thanks to major updates, it’s grown in size to become a powerhouse in terms of content. Each level has three very difficult goals: collect all the gems, find your pet Axolotl, and try to do it within the par jump, bouncing as few times as possible. Each of these will take you several tries to achieve, adding a lot of replay value to the mix. Plus there are Game Center Leaderboards for each world as well as 33 achievements to collect. To complete the game alone will take awhile, but to accomplish all three goals for every level will last you a long time in terms of playing time. There’s also a lot of variety, with five definedly different worlds and an epic boss battle finale. Worlds feel a lot different too, with different enemies, obstacles, and more in each world. As far as content and variety goes, ‘Bean’s Quest’ brings you a lot of both, giving a game one could play for hours and not get bored with.
Grab your sombrero and start jumping, because this platformer is definitely one of the most creative takes on virtual controls. Hop to it and buy this wonderful gem.
Bean’s Quest (is currently on sale from $2.99 to $0.99 in celebration of its most recent, content doubling update)
Kemco, a Japanese development company specializing in Turn Based RPGs, has just released their newest iOS port, Fantasy Chronicle. If you’re familiar with Kemco’s last releases, Symphony of Eternity, Alphadia and Eve of the Genesis, you probably already know that Kemco is right up there with Square Enix when it comes to the quality of their stories, combat mechanics, depthy equip+upgrade systems, the music used in their titles, and, of course, the gameplay. Fantasy Chronicle is no exception, and, in fact, is their most polished, and well thought out English translated iOS release to date.
Fantasy Chronicle tells the story of 8 characters; The main character, Light, his foster sister, Fina, their ‘Grandma’, Ohma, Alterbo, a sargent in the army, Holos Over, a young girl, Corona, a magical rabbit, Mr. Poo, a girl who looks a lot like Fina, Retea, and Ray, a woman from the Dark Clans. There are other minor characters which you’ll come into contact with throughout the game, but these are the 8 that play a major roll throughout the majority of the game. I don’t want to give too much away, because like Kemco’s previous releases, the story is a huge part of the game. However, in Fantasy Chronicle, the story is a bigger part of the game than any of their previous English iOS ports. There’s a lot more going on with the characters, a lot more growth with each of them, as well as more twists, turns, drama, conflict, obsession, revenge, and everything that makes fantastic dramatic writing. The translation is also superb, as we have come to expect from Kemco. No Google Translations here. There are a couple of words that shouldn’t have been capitalized, and maybe a comma missing here and there, but aside from that, the story, and everything every single one of the characters within the game says is understandable, and grammatically correct.
Light, the main character that you will start off playing with first, is an orphan, being raised by a woman named Ohma. Living with Light and Ohma, is a young woman named Fina, who is about Light’s age. Light, wanting to follow in the footsteps of Alberto, a friend of the family, and presumably someone whom Ohma has also raised, joins the volunteer army known as Holos Over. After a couple days of training, the village in which Light has grown up in, Selka, is destroyed, with no trace of Ohma or Fina left behind, and all that’s certain is that whoever destroyed Selka is the same person or group who destroyed another village because of the symbol found amongst the ruins. You’ll go on Light’s journey to find out what happened to Fina and Ohma, and discover the truth behind who’s at fault for the destruction of his village, as well as the destruction of other villages throughout the land.
Gameplay, Controls & Music: 5/5
The gameplay in Fantasy Chronicle is typical of Turn-Based RPGs, in that you’ll be able to wonder around in towns, and other areas, as well as having a world map. You’ll start off being able to visit your hometown, and then as you explore through forests, and go down other paths, you’ll start to unlock and open up other areas within the world map that you’ll be able to jump to. Each town has a handful of places which you can visit, the Inn, Item Shop, Workshop, Town Square, Guild, Private House, Church, ect. But you will spend most of your time within the Workshop and Guild, as this is where you’ll get your missions, and upgrade equipment. Most of the time, the game plays like older Final Fantasy games, with your characters needing to speak to certain individuals in order to progress through the story, so you will also be spending a lot of time talking to the people in each of the towns, learning about the world, and triggering more story sequences.
There are some areas which do have quite a bit of grinding, but as you’ll quickly learn, what grinding there is is heavily rewarded with the story sequences that break it up. In relation to Kemco’s previous releases, the grinding is not as heavy as it is in Alphadia, but it is there. Good thing about it, though, is that with the extremely well designed combat system, the grinding could actually be considered a welcome addition, with the game having very few battles that can be won by pressing the ‘auto’ button. As for the controls, you can choose between using the touch controls, or having a virtual button set-up on the screen. There is a quick button change between the two in the lower right corner of the screen. This control set-up is great, and should really be used more in iOS games, as there are certain sections which feel better with the touch controls, and others that are better with the virtual buttons. For instance, the virtual buttons are great for exploration, and moving throughout the menus, as well as jumping from place to place on the world map, where as the touch screen controls are fantastic for the combat, upgrade, shop, and mission screens, and being able to switch between the two just by touching the lower right corner makes deciding what controls you would prefer for different sections extremely easy. The music is exceptional, and fits with the game to a “T”. There is not one section of the game where the music does not fit the mood for what’s happening. Numerous times multiple musical selections are used for one dialogue sequence, changing as the mood does.
The graphics are typical of your usual retro looking RPG. In fact, you could say it looks extremely generic. However, the up-close character images during dialogue, and their models, as well as every single one of the enemy sprites/models, is done exceptionally well, adding a lot to the feel of the game. Each of the environments that you’ll traverse through are put together extremely well. With some places given a nighttime look, and others being underground, it really would have been nice to see some lighting effects used, even if in a 2D fashion. However, what the classics have shown us is that graphics are a very small part of the genre as a whole, and even though showing off some new insane graphical style would have added to the game in a cosmetic sense, it’s really the story, combat, upgrades, equips, and music that make an RPG game great, though graphics are a big cherry on top, they are not required. Don’t get me wrong, Fantasy Chronicle does, in no way, have bad graphics, in fact, I think almost all of the enemy’s models, as well as the characters hand drawn images all look fantastic and add a lot to the feeling of the game, but if you’re tired of the typical 2D “retro” RPG look, Fantasy Chronicle will in no way impress you.
Combat, Upgrade & Equip System: 5/5
This is where Fantasy Chronicle really shines. The combat, upgrade, and equip systems and mechanics. With the combat, you’re able to choose 3 characters from your party to fight, with each of the three characters able to have with them, a guardian beast. These beasts grow stronger, accumulate experience with each of the characters, and also grow a bond with the characters which you pair them up with. The longer you have a beast and character paired up, the stronger the bond between the two. This bond is used in combat, as you can set each of the guardian beasts to attack, share the damage from enemies, or focus on healing. You are also able to pair up characters, having them join special attacks for a set amount of SP (magical power), increasing the attack that you can use. With the upgrade system, you are able to collect minerals from each of the areas that you’ll explore, from both exploring, as well as from defeating monsters. After you open up a little bit of the game in the beginning, you’ll also be able to use more characters in the Workshops to go and mine for minerals while you’re out exploring, fighting, and in general, progressing throughout the game, and be able to collect it when you come back to the Workshop in each of the visited towns.
Using these minerals, you’ll be able to upgrade items. There are also books scattered throughout the world of Fantasy Chronicle, which you’ll be able to collect, and use to turn current items into different, more powerful items. Along with the minerals, you’ll be able to find swords and armor scattered throughout the world, which you can then bring back to the Workshops, and have them disassembled so that you can gain materials that way too. With the upgrade system, your characters, as well as guardian beasts, become stronger with each level, as well as learn certain spells as they level up. The bond you create with the characters and the guardian beasts also grows, making the extra skills your guardians have stronger as well. Once you start experimenting with the whole combat and equipping systems, you’ll learn how deep they really are, giving you a lot of control over what happens in battle, and what items you equip your characters with. Planning within each of the areas for what types of enemies you’ll face and what elements they might have will also become a big part of what you use to upgrade your equipment, and what equipment you take along with you into battle.
Kemco has shown that they know and have what it takes to compete with the best of the best within the Turn-Based RPG genre, and Fantasy Chronicle is probably their best release to date, being the most polished, well-presented, title they’ve ported to the iOS as of yet. Right now, with it’s price at $2.99, it’s a must buy for RPG fans. The combat system is one of the best I’ve seen, the story is amazingly well written, extremely engaging, and well translated with characters that you’ll become very attached to. Once you start playing, don’t be surprised if you find it hard to start up any other games on your device until you reach the end. Kemco has shown what they’re made of with their previous English iOS releases, but with Fantasy Chronicle, they’ve managed to set a new standard; not only for what fans of the genre should expect from other companies, but for what Kemco can truly bring to the table.
Recently, Bulkypix has been on a hot-streak. Their newer publications of Save the Furries, Funny Hell, Another World, Mamba Nation Battle, Terra Noctis, and more, have thrown them right back into the hot seat, letting iOS gamers know that they know exactly what a top-notch, high-quality title is. Carrying on this streak of awesome releases, Jazz: Trump’s Journey, a co-production between Egg Ball and Bulkypix, just went live this week, and it does not disappoint.
You’ll play as Trump, a famous jazz musician who takes you on a journey through his memories of how he managed to get known in the 1920’s New Orleans Jazz scene. And not only is the game influenced by the music of the time, but also by the art, with the environments, characters, buildings, and backgrounds all influenced by paintings from 1920’s New Orleans. Another influence for the game is the biography of Louis Armstrong, whom the main character, Trump, even slightly resembles. There’s several aspects within the game that directly match Armstrong’s life; being raised by his grandmother, spending time in a prison where the in-mates were able to play music, and of course, playing the trumpet. The music you’ll hear throughout the game was recorded by live studio musicians, and with each band member that you team-up with throughout your journey will add to the soundtrack. Cut-scenes, which play out like old silent films, are also found within the game, with the characters talking to one-another, and then being taken to a screen where you can read the dialogue. Sadly though, the dialogue is filled with grammatical and capitalization errors. I know that there are quite a few gamers who feel that imperfect grammar is something that takes away from the immersion of games, which is very understandable. It can get very frustrating having to stop and re-think what it is that you‘ve just read, or missing out on a dialogue section because you were trying to understand what a character was saying, which is a problem during the silent film influenced cut-scenes, because the dialogue screens don’t stay on the screen for long.
As far as the controls are concerned, you’re given your typical platformer layout; left and right movement buttons in the bottom left corner, and a jump button in the bottom right. The left/right buttons are spaced pretty far apart, it would have been great if there was an option for gamers to set all the buttons wherever they wanted them, especially for playing on the iPad, which, right now, I can only assume would be fairly difficult with the spacing as it is now. There are other buttons that come into play as you progress through the game, and come across different environment pieces. When you get onto a ladder, or a rope, up and down movement buttons will appear above the left and right buttons, along the left side of the screen. There’s also a button for playing your trumpet once you find it, and doing so stops time for all objects with a musical icon outlined in green on them. There are other objects which are not effected by the time stops, and those have the same icon, only it’s outlined in red.
You can change direction mid-air, but only if you’re not wall jumping. This can lead to some frustration when needing to perfectly time your jumps, or when trying to cut back after jumping off of a surface you didn’t mean to. But the wall jumping does open up a lot of level design options, and here, the developers have done a great job utilizing that. Actually, the level design, and how each of the objects work together throughout the game to give players a bit of challenge, as well as adding in puzzle elements to the mix, has made for some of the best level design I’ve seen in an iOS platformer. All 13 of the levels utilize the wall-jumping, and are fairly large. Even though there’s only 13 levels, the game is decently sized for an iOS platformer.
Each of the levels has quite a few checkpoints, which you are able to backtrack to if you feel that you’ve missed something, or want to reset a puzzle. This can be done by pressing the icon in the top left corner. However, there are some checkpoints that do not register, and you could end up being sent back more than one checkpoint. It doesn’t happen often, and has never happened during spots where there was a sign in the background saying that you could go back to a checkpoint, but it does happen occasionally.
Even with it’s flaws, Jazz: Trump’s Journey, is a fantastically done, well made platformer. The art and music help to create an immersive environment which, as you progress through the game you’ll be able to very clearly see, was handled with extreme care. The inclusion of puzzles, especially later on in the game, makes for some pretty challenging sections, but also expand the gameplay quite a bit. With Jazz supporting GameCenter achievements, being Universal and only $2.99, it’s a great purchase for fans of the genre. It’s definitely a game that will stick with you for years.
If you’re a regular reader of TheAppShack, you probably know by now that my favorite genre of video games is platformers. Especially exploratory platformers. As I’ve said a few times, Metroid II – Return of Samus is my favorite video game of ALL TIME. These days, my iPod is my main gaming console, and yes, I know how weird that is, and that I am in a very small group of people here, but anyway, I have been hoping that Metroidvania titles would become more frequent in the AppStore. Phoenix Spirit and Grokion seemed to be the only titles within this genre for quite some time, but over the last year or so, Metroidvania fans have grown, or, more likely, have gotten iDevices, and releases like Elemental Rage, Miss Claire Garden, Cordy, Glowfish, Emberwind, BlibBlob, Shantae, SpyCorp, and a few more have added loads of fuel to the fire. Granted, not all of these are TRUE Metroidvania titles, but they do incorporate quite a bit of exploration, and for die-hard fans of the genre, that’s usually enough. So now, when a platformer comes along that has “exploration” mentioned within 5 feet of it, I’m usually one of the first people to jump all over it.
FireFruitForge has been working on a little game that’s going by the name Terra Noctis (originally named After Dark, if any readers out there heard of it a while back, but they decided to change the name so as not to run into any legal issues). It’s a retro inspired platformer, with influences from Super Mario Brothers, Donkey Kong, and has quite a bit of exploration thrown in as well. There are 3 difficulty levels, Normal, Hard, and Nightmare, with the harder difficulties having more enemies, more traps, and less platforms.
There are 40 levels spread across 4 different worlds. Each level has a 100% completion rate available for it; to get a 100% completion, you’ve got to find all 15 of the red fairies scattered throughout the level, the large gold coin, usually hidden in a harder to reach area of the level, and grab 5 orbs, each with a letter in them, spelling out S-C-A-R-E. There are also blue fairies in each level, which you can collect, and use to buy items in the game’s shop. In the shop, you’re able to buy extra lives, as well as power-ups that you can equip and use as many times as you like until you loose a life, or complete a level. All of the items in the shop are very reasonably priced, all between 80 and 150 fairies. If you explore a little bit in each level, you can usually get around 200-350+ fairies in each level. All of the levels are also re-playable after you beat them, so if you get stuck, you can go back and play some previously completed levels, and buy some items to help you.
The controls for Terra Noctis are set-up like most platformer games on the iOS. You’ve got your left/right arrows in the bottom left corner, and then your bottom right corner has your duck/smash/option button, and your jump button. While standing on the ground, your duck/smash/option button is used to duck, while in the air, it can be used to make your character, Allen, curl his legs up, and smash down into the ground, which can break certain blocks, and be used as an attack, and when in front of a cave entrance, can be used to enter the cave. Your jump button is pretty self-explanatory, and you are able to double-jump, or fall off of a cliff, and use your 2nd jump while falling, which does come in handy quite a bit. You are able to throw projectiles as well, and this is done by tapping and holding on the play area, and then dragging your finger to aim where you want to throw your projectile, having it fly in the direction chosen when you lift your finger. Tapping on the play area while you‘re in the air will allow Allen to throw a projectile straight forward, which works perfectly for taking out enemies on higher up platforms. The controls are tight, and very responsive. Actually, they’re probably some of the most responsive controls for a non-speed run platformer within the AppStore. The movement arrows could go to be a tad bit smaller, but they are very transparent, so they don’t really get in the way. Would just be nice to have it look a little slicker.
Now, once you start up the game, choose a difficulty, enter the first level, and start making your way to the end of the level, you’ll notice immediately that the level design is very well thought out. You’ll have quite a bit to look forward to as you make your way through the game, because it only gets better as you progress. The level design throughout the game is actually some of the best I’ve ever experienced. The amount of time and thought that must have gone into the design is apparent pretty much every step you make. Not to mention how much time must have gone into testing the levels to make sure jumps were just right, and everything got lined up perfectly.
Another aspect of the game that jumps right out at you once you first start playing are the graphics. The colors that have been chosen, the details that have been included, the backgrounds, objects throughout the levels that you can interact with, and objects that you can’t, there is not one thing that looks like it doesn‘t belong. The entire Terra Noctis world is mind-blowing. Smooth, modern graphics and textures that still hold a retro feeling within them, making it feel old-school while still being graphically impressive by the standards of today’s iOS games. This, along with the awesome back-ground-music, and smooth as butter animations for everything from walking and flying, to the fairies life like movement and particles of dust traveling through the air comes together to create one hell of an immersive environment.
On top of everything else, the amount of enemies you’ll face while making your way through the game is just perfect. Once you get through the first world, and start on the second, you might start to wonder if you’ve seen all the enemies there is to see, and then one will pop up that you haven’t run into previously. Then another, and another. To make things even more impressive, all of the enemy designs are incredibly well done, and fit perfectly within the game. There are also bosses at the end of each world, all of which are amazingly well done, with battles that change up the gameplay quite a bit, and throw an extremely high scoring situation at the player.
It’s clear, after playing the game, that Terra Noctis is very deserving of it’s $2.99 price-tag, if not more. Being Universal, including iCade support, the amount of content, especially for 100% completionist fanatics, and the OpenFeint leaderboards, 24 hard to snag achievements, as well as top scores for each level that are shown at the level select screen, should keep any gamer, even platformer fanatics, busy for quite some time. It’s easily one of the best platform games I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing, and the amount of work, time, effort, and testing that has gone into Terra Noctis, shines through with every single frame of the game. After being able to play this for the last two weeks, I can very confidently say that it is my #3 favorite game of 2011, right under Space Tripper and Anomaly Warzone Earth. With Normal difficulty very reminiscent of the difficulty in old-school Mario games, Terra Noctis is great for all gamers, and is HIGHLY recommended. FireFruitForge has given iOS gamers a phenomenal piece of art all wrapped up in a tightly controlled, highly enjoyable, modern/old-school mesh of a video game. Everyone with an iDevice should grab it as soon as possible
Real time base defense games have generated quite a following in the iOS gaming world. Cartoon Wars was my, and probably a whole lot of other’s, first foray into this genre. Even though there’s not a whole lot of variety throughout the genre, they really seem to sell well, and are almost always fairly addicting. I recently was able to get my hands on Funny Hell, developed by Fazen and published by the ever popular Bulkypix.
Like others in the genre, Funny Hell has you sending out various characters to battle the enemy. However, in Funny Hell, you’re given a mission or two at the beginning of each stage, which does set it slightly apart from other titles. The first 10 of 50 levels, that are split up across 5 different worlds, each leading you closer to the center of ’hell’, and each having an available 3 ‘skull‘ ranking, are set up like tutorial levels, adding another character to the line-up, and getting you acquainted with the enemies, and gameplay in general. Most of these levels are completed when you send out a certain number of characters, or kill a certain amount of enemies. After this, the gameplay picks up fairly quickly, with the first real stage’s mission having you survive for 3 minutes and 30 seconds, which, believe it or not, can prove to be quite the challenge, not often, but sometimes to a frustrating extent. There are more of these mission type levels as you progress throughout the game, having you save up a certain amount of coinage, or kill a certain amount of one type of enemy. It does add some extra strategy behind the already fairly strategic gameplay. Each of your characters has a certain ability, generally either shooting a projectile, or having a strong attack. There are some which both fire projectiles and melee attack, but cost more as well. You will need to go through some trial and error figuring out which enemies require which units to be sent out to ensure the most possible damage is done, but once you figure it out, deciding when on the battle field they should come into contact with each other also becomes part of the strategy. You’re able to build an offensive attacking stone type character on the side of your base, which tosses projectiles out, but only within a certain range. If you’re having trouble with some enemies, sometimes waiting for them to make it down towards your base so that you can also attack with that stone character is the best course of action. It makes for some challenging, and entertaining gameplay.
There is no upgrade store, which is kind of upsetting, but as you progress through the game,
Funny Hell is controlled like most other base defense titles, tapping on the units you want to send out, which are located at the bottom of the screen, and swiping anywhere else on the screen to scroll left and right. There are also coins which pop up randomly as you are battling, and they bounce along the ground, disappearing fairly quickly, and are picked up by tapping on them. This might become a problem for some gamers, because as the coins are bouncing, sometimes in the heat of the moment, you can wind up trying to tap on a coin, and end up tapping on a unit to be sent out since they are directly beneath the bouncing coins, and when it happens, it can be incredibly frustrating.
The graphics and animations are fantastic. Graphics-wise, the game is fairly cartoony, and very vibrant with loads of color. The character and enemy designs are done very well, and fit the extremely vibrant cartoon looking environments to a “T”. The animations for attacking, movement, falling objects, coins bouncing around, death, they’re all fantastic, really adding quite a bit to the entertainment. The BGM that’s included with the game brings it all together to create one hell of a great base defense game.
Funny Hell is definitely a release that deserves it’s $2.99 price tag, and then some. Being universal, and coupled with incredible replay value, emphasized by the addition of GameCenter leaderboards for Coins, Killed Monsters, and Skulls, along with an incredible 60 achievements to try and unlock. There’s quite a bit of challenge here, especially if you go ahead and try and grab 3 skull rankings on each stage. Having missions for each of the stages does bring some originality to the game, which is great to see within the base defense genre. It looks like December is a great month for Bulkypix publications. Fazen has created an extremely polished, and well produced title, and I can’t wait to see what they bring iOS gamers in the future!
10tons Ltd. is definitely not new to the AppStore. Their first iOS release, Rope Raider, showing up in the AppStore on November 4, 2009, was, even then, a prime example of what 10tons could do with the platform. Since then, 15 more releases have followed, each time, gaining more of a following, though it’s fairly safe to say that Sparkle the Game has been their most successful endeavor, it’s very clear that they know exactly what it takes to create a top notch game, appealing to both casual and hardcore gamers. Their latest release, Swingworm, is yet again, another prime example of that.
In the game, you’ll guide a worm named Swingy through an amazing 95 levels by grabbing either the front or back end of the worm, and swinging it from platform to platform, collecting the Rubbaberries that are scattered throughout the stages. Once you’ve collected all of the berries in a level, an elevator will activate, and take you to the next level. But it’s not as easy as it sounds. In order to reach most areas, you’ll need to figure out how to use the momentum of the worm while swinging so that either his head or end will attach to the leaves, which are pretty spread out, and it can sometimes pose a small challenge getting from one to the next. Each of the levels has a possible 3 star ranking, adding quite a bit of replay value to the game. To get a perfect 3 stars, you will need to complete the levels as fast as you can. There is a time limit bar shown in the top left corner, each time it fills up, a star is removed from your ranking. Once you complete the level, you’re shown the total time it took you to complete the level, and what time you’ll need to get the next best star ranking, which is very nice. I really wish all star ranking based on time games did this.
The graphics and animations done for Swingworm are top notch. The game is split in to Episodes, with the first having 10 levels, then Episodes 2-4 having 15, and 5-6 having 20, each Episode has a different environment, which also introduces new obsticles, objects, and hazards you can use, manipulate, or need to avoid. For instance, some levels have ice blocks you’ll need to swing into to break, others will have logs that rotate, which you’ll need to swing around on, gaining momentum to reach other platforms. All of the graphics are done in a cute cartoony way, reminiscent of Joining Hands, with the backgrounds filling in the holes of the levels perfectly, and the story breaks between the episodes, with Swingy talking to Big Bug helping round everything out. The animations for Swingy’s, enemies, and other character’s movement, objects breaking, Swingy attaching to objects, and collecting Rubbaberries is all very well done, allowing for the gameplay to flow very well, and come together in a near perfect harmony. To top it off, the cute and bouncy soundtrack, fitting the game to a ’T’ completes the atmosphere.
With GameCenter leaderboards for total Episode times on each of the 6 Episodes, and 14 achievements, the replayabilty is extremely high, and the drive to better your time is constantly looking you in the face. It’s arguable that Swingworm is 10tons best release since Sparkle the Game, bringing all of their knowledge of what it takes to make a top notch mix of casual and hardcore gameplay fit perfectly into an action puzzler. $2.99 is a great price for this Universal build, especially with the insane replay value, and incredible amount of content. Swingworm ends up being a game that’s extremely easy to recommend for gamers of all ages.
Strategy gaming is a genre I’m fairly new to. Not to say that I’m not fully immersed in it. Over the last 3 months, I’ve buried my head into quite a few RTS and Turn-Based Strategy titles. More often than not though, I felt as if they didn’t offer enough depth. There has always been the desire to have more control over an aspect of the game, or wishing that the story was deeper, the history of the characters revealed a bit more, and so on. Enter Ravenmark: Scourge of Estellion, developed by Witching Hour Studios.
At it’s core, Ravenmark is a very well fleshed out turn-based strategy game based on rock-paper-scissors mechanics. Each of the 4 different groups of fighters has a group that they‘re strong and another that they‘re weak against. But it’s everything that’s added on top of the core gameplay that makes Ravenmark a strategy game that stands out amongst the crowd.
The game focuses on Calius Septim, a young, but very smart member of the Estellion army. His older brother, Rebus, is constantly pushing him to his limits, while Calius’ superior officer has it in for him. Before each battle, you’ll get a short dialogue scene, moving the story forward, and letting you know why you’re moving to where, and what’s going on around you, but there’s also a Codex that you can read through, giving some background on the characters, the fighters you’ll be using, the lands that make up and surround Estellion, and quite a bit of the social, and spiritual information for the world you’ll be playing in, all expanding significantly on the story.
The gameplay is done in a turn-based manor, first with you giving all the orders, and then watching all of those orders be carried out. However, there are tons of different little aspects you’ll need to pay attention to, or else you could end up loosing big time. As stated already, each of the 4 different groups of troops you’ll be using has another group that they’re strong against, and weak against. Swordsmen trump spear-men, spear-men, cavalry, cavalry beats the archers, and archers over swordsmen. With this make-up, it sounds easy enough, right? Not exactly. You’re given a certain amount of Command Points per turn, with each unit requiring a command point to be given an order, and you will almost never have enough command points. Thankfully, there’s quite a few ways to deal with the lack of command points. You’re able to combine groups of the same troops, for instance, 3 groups of archers can all move next to each other, and then combine, making one formation. Doing this also gives that group of troops a special ability. In this case, archers are given double attacks, meaning all 3 groups are able to attack twice.
You’ll also command higher ranking officers, each of which has a special ability which can be used right away at the beginning of a battle, but then will need to recharge over a certain amount of turns before it can be used again. You’re also able to give Standing Orders to your troops, which helps save on command points, because once you give them an order, they’ll perform that order until it’s complete. You can command troops to keep moving forward, or follow an enemy until the enemy or the troops are dead, or keep them standing in one place, regaining HP. As if that wasn’t enough, you’ll need to keep an eye on what order all of the units move in. If you’re not careful, you could end up moving a group of troops to an area where an enemy just was, because that enemy was able to move before you. You’ll also need to keep track of which way your troops are facing, or else an enemy could wind up attacking you from behind, getting an extra bonus.
The graphics are extremely well done, with some of the best UI controls I’ve had the pleasure of having in a strategy game. The music, sounds, animations, everything within the game that’s surrounding the core gameplay and story is top-notch, and very easy to use, understand, navigate, and all comes together to form one of the best turn-based strategy games I’ve ever played. $2.99 is an amazing price for what the game has to offer, and is highly recommended for any and all fans of the genre, as well as newcomers. The tutorials are done very well, and you learn everything gradually, with the game essentially showing you exactly how to do each action, there’s not a whole lot of reading if that’s a turn off. Ravenmark is another game that shows that the iOS is capable of handling a hardcore title with plenty of substance and depth, and a game that gives iOS gamers wishing for more serious games to hit the AppStore another title to add to their list of definitive iOS games, as well as gives more hope for the future of iOS gaming.
3D Motion Picture Puzzler. Chances are you haven’t heard of the genre. Don’t feel bad, it’s relatively untouched within the AppStore, and aside from Flash games, finding a Motion Picture Puzzle game can be quite the task. On the iOS, Pictorial is available for free, and has been a very good example of a 3D Motion Picture Puzzler. What you might not know is that Pictorial is an unofficial iOS port of the Flash game, Starlight. The developers of Starlight are from FDG Entertainment (Blosics, Cover Orange, Beyond Ynth, Bobby Carrot, and more), who are also the developers of a wonderful new motion picture puzzler game; Blueprint 3D.
You’ll be given 240 different pictures to try and solve. When the picture first pops up, it looks like a bunch of broken lines, shapes, and really, just a jumbled mess. You’ll need to rotate the picture by dragging your finger across the screen until you see something that’s starting to resemble an actual object. Once you get the picture, you’ll need to use two fingers to rotate the image so that it’s right-side-up, and then move on to the next picture.
It might not sound too fun or entertaining, and about as challenging as making toast, but FDG Entertainment has done a great job making the game just right. Yes, there are 240 different pictures, and yes, you might just be able to solve every single one of them in about an hour. But here’s where the challenge comes in. See, the game keeps track of how long it takes you to solve each picture, but the clock keeps counting as you move from picture to picture, making it so that your total time is the time it takes for you to complete the level pack. The amount of time it takes also effects your scores.
GameCenter is supported with 8 different leader boards, one for each level pack, and one for your total score ranking, as well as having 27 achievements. As always, this helps bring the replay value up quite a bit, while competing with your friends and gamers around the world for a top score always helps add some challenge and replayabilty to the game.
There are 7 different level packs at the moment, each with different backgrounds, graphics, and atmospheres, giving them all a different sort of feel. Architecture, Electronics and Military are a few, with new and old architectural wonders, computer parts and electronic devices, along with weapons and armor images to rotate together. Each level pack has images that fit the theme, and with Blueprint having 7 different packs, there is quite a bit of variety while going through the game.
Like EPOCH, and couple other recent releases in the AppStore, Blueprint will not take long at all to complete, but what gameplay is there is done extremely well, and is loads of fun. I’m not too sure how many of you out there are hoping for more games that are short and sweet, but done so well that every second you spend playing them is just about, if not more, fun than going through 40 hours of an RPG, but we’d love to see more of them hit the AppStore. At the low price of $0.99 for the iPhone version, and $2.99 for the HD build, with all the leader boards, achievements, and new level packs that are on the way, it’s a great price for what you’re getting. Sure, there are more polished games, games that have more content, or more action packed into them, but if you’re looking for something that hasn’t been reproduced a hundred times, and carries with it loads of entertainment, Blueprint 3D will be a great game to check out. You can also check out Pictorial for free, and Pictorial HD has just gone free for a limited time if you’d like to check out what sort of gameplay you’ll be getting yourselves into.
Science Fiction Real Time Strategy. A genre pretty much left untapped within the AppStore, there’s only a few titles that cover the 4X gameplay, but the ones that do are premium priced for a reason; extremely deep, intuitive user interface, hours upon hours of gameplay, endless replayabilty with almost endless results, and very strategic gameplay just to mention some biggies. Luckily for fans of the genre, Orator Games has just released Blue Libra. Not exactly a 4X game, but a mix between 4X and Galcon type gameplay gives hardcore fans of the genre something for quick plays, with more strategy and depth than any Galcon game, and new-comers to the genre something to help them get acquainted with the style. And at $0.99 ($2.99 for the HD/iPad Version), there’s pretty much no reason not to check it out.
You’ll command the last of the Libra class of carriers to avenge the fall of your home world. Your main goal? Make your way across the galaxy back to your home world, destroying anyone who stands in your way. You’ll need to produce different types of ships, and take over planets and space stations, getting rid of the opposing force in each sector, upgrading your ships and main Libra carrier with multiple upgrades available in the shop, so that you can be sure to have the power and ability to take on anything that might be thrown your way. One wrong move, and you could wind up with a loss.
As for the controls, they’re fairly intuitive. Fleets are all produced by your Libra carrier, and any planets or space stations you take over. These fleets are grouped together in a circle, and can be merged by drawing a line, which automatically snaps to a straight line, no matter how wobbly you draw it, between the two. To move a fleet, simply draw a line to the planet or station you wish to move to. You can cut a whole fleet in half by slicing it, ala Fruit Ninja, and the fleet will split in half with each half having, as close to, half of all ships as it can. This does take away a bit from the strategic element, as your groups of ships can not be split up to best serve the situation that they’re going in to, but instead give “my bigger fleet will take over your smaller fleet” gameplay. This isn’t a bad thing, exactly, as there are still times in the game where you will need to decide before hand what ships to produce to best serve the mission, and how many resources to set up building those ships, but being able to decide exactly what type of ships are sent where would have added quite a bit more strategic gameplay and depth to the game. There are obstacles in some of the sectors, like asteroid belts, which slow you down significantly, and these are best gone around if at all possible, to do this, you’ll just need to draw a line around the obstacle, and stop short of where you want to move to so that the line does not snap to a straight shot. The screen automatically pans while you’re making your line, dragging on the screen, which is very handy. You can set the pan speed in the options menu as well.
There are 15 missions leading you back to your home world, and beating a lot of them will take multiple play throughs. The difficulty curve is great, and increases at a pretty steady rate. There is no online support, but with gameplay like Blue Libra’s, there isn’t much need for GameCenter. Being able to share your final tallies, like how many total ships you lost/destroyed, how long it took you to make it back to your home world, and little stats like this would be nice, but is not really considered the end goal by fans of the genre.
Again, at $0.99, there’s very little reason not to grab it, whether you’re a hardcore 4X RTS fan, or even if you’ve never played a Sci-Fi RTS before, it stretches across a wide length of skill levels, and provides simple yet still depthy gameplay. It’s definitely a title worth checking out, and one that you can easily sink hours upon hours into.
Exploritory Metroidvania-type games are a pretty big rarity in the AppStore, but those that can be found are extremely well made. Glowfish, by MumboJumbo (Luxor, 7 Wonders), is no exception to this. You’ll guide Glowfish through 50+ levels, finding all the little glowing fish you can use as your shield, defeating interesting enemies, exploring the depths for hidden areas, collecting coins, and gaining friends that you can take along with you, lending their abilities.
You’ll control your Glowfish with a virtual joystick, a shield button, which either brings the fish you’ve collected into a shield circle around you, or lets them trail behind you, letting you access areas joined by a small pathway, along with tapping on the screen to dash in the direction you are facing.
To start off each level, you will not have any fish you can use as a shield, and will need to find a certain amount before you can move on to the next part of the level. Once you have collected a fish or two, you can hit the shield button, and they will start to circle you, giving you a shield you can use to smash into enemies. The more fish you have, the bigger your shield, and the bigger the enemies you can take out. There are some hazards and water life that you will not be able to attack, like bigger crabs, sea urchins and others, these are best left untouched. If you do happen to run into one of them, you will bounce off and loose a couple of fish that you have collected. They can be re-collected, but you will have to chase them down.
The graphics are top notch, and look exceptionally good. The neon type color scheme works very well for the under water atmosphere, and along with the backdrops, everything stands out significantly. The animations are extremely well done, with everything flowing, adding immensely to the underwater feel of the game. Everything on the screen, aside from the rocks, moves and sways back and forth, and every character in the game has their own little quirky movements. Something else I feel like I need to bring up is the level design. It’s incredibly well done. There’s also a very good mix of small, medium, and large levels. The hidden areas are fairly well hidden, but are also pretty easily found with your map, which comes together as you progress in each level, ala Metroid. The music and effects help build on the atmosphere and feeling of it all, bringing the entire package to completion.
Glowfish is $2.99 for the iPhone, and $4.99 for the iPad, and worth every single penny, and then some. It is supported by GameCenter with a highscore leader board and 25 achievements, which, combined with the 4 star ratings available on each level, adds to the replay value a bit, though you probably won’t play through Glowfish more than one time in a row, it is a game that will call you back after a month or two. It certainly is a game that everyone who owns an iDevice should check out, and will easily end up on quite a few top games of 2011 lists.