A couple of months ago, I wouldn’t have really called myself an online multiplayer fan. But with all of the great MP games being released lately, I’ve definitely been turned into one. Now, being a pretty big fan of Match-3 games, and with this new-found enjoyment of online gameplay, Stofle Designs Jewels with Buddies has wound up in my current rotation of games that I play every day. Battling it out against another player, trying to get the best combined score for 3 rounds of match-3 mayhem is a lot more fun than I thought it would be.
Once you register, or connect to your Facebook profile, you’re able to start games with friends from yoru contacts list, find a random buddy, have a rematch with someone you’ve already played, search for a username, or have a pass-n-play session with a friend on the same device.
As you play, you’ll earn coins. These are used to pick power-up animals who are able to help you out throughout your game, and also to take spins on the slots. Each animal has a different ability, and is charged up by making certain types of matches while you play. For instance, the Panda Bear eats a whole row of gems and is charged up when you make white matches, while the Elephant destroys half of the board, and is recharged by matching purple gems, and so on.
The scoring system is definitely a plus. With each match you make, you earn points, and if there’s a coin inside one of the gems, you’ll gain coins as well. But if you keep making matches quickly, the amount of points you’ll earn will keep rising. There are also multipliers randomly found on the gems which increase as time counts down. If you tap the gems with a multiplier before making a match with them, the multiplier will be applied to that match.
You’re given 3 rounds, each being 60 seconds long, to earn as many points as you can. After each round, your score is sent to the other player, and then you wait for them to play a round and send it back. I haven’t ever had this much fun with a match-3 MP game. Witch Wars and Matching With Friends both seemed way too unbalanced, and pushed towards IAP, and Syntax Match, while decent, is a little too difficult when it comes to quickly finding matches because of the tiles used. Don’t get me wrong, there are IAPs included in Jewels with Friends, and if you want the best animal power-ups every time you play, you’ll probably need to purchase some coins, but with the coins earned at a decent rate, and being able to choose some of the better animals every 3 or so games, even without purchasing IAPs, it’s very well balanced, and doesn’t feel like you’re constantly being pushed towards the IAPs, which is becoming more and more rare with free games.
So, if you’re looking for an online asynchronous match 3 title, you should definitely check out Jewels with Friends. Even though there’s no extra modes, and no single player gameplay, what is there is done very well, and priced at FREE, there’s really no reason not to give it a try. It’s definitely a title that’ll wind up staying on my device for quite some time.
Tower+Base Defense games are everywhere in the AppStore. It’s definitely a genre that has been overwhelmed with releases. With the growing capabilities of the iOS hardware as well as it’s software, this genre is finally expanding after a sort of dead period where nothing really new was hitting the gaming scene, and 3D Tower Defense titles seem to be gaining ground. The most recent TD release from the very prominent publishers over at Bulkypix is Chicken Doom. A tap-based 3D Base Defense title that has you defending a chicken in a lookout tower armed with a Gatling gun.
Chicken Doom has you playing through various environments on Easy, Medium, and Hard difficulties. Your chicken sits at the top of the screen, back in the stage a bit, while enemies come at you, appearing from the bottom of the screen. The controls are simple; Tap on an enemy to fire at them. You can also hold down on the screen to constantly fire, but this knocks out any chance of building up a combo multiplier, seriously effecting your score.
So long as you can hit enemies consecutively, without missing one or having too long of a break between hits, you’ll build up your combo, which, in-turn, seriously helps build up your score. The higher your score, the more currency, labeled as ‘Corn’, you’ll earn. Helping out with this is certain power-ups. You’ll be able to use these to increase your combo by picking up an individual enemy, and hitting them about 10 times. During this period, the action freezes, and the one enemy is the only enemy on the screen.
You’re also able to purchase and upgrade power-ups in the store. Here, you can equip up to 4 power-ups, from a TNT Barrel, which rolls down the hill, flattening all the chickens in it’s path, a Bugger power-up, which covers the chickens in goo, and slows them down, a Chicken Bomb, which burns all surrounding chickens, and more. You are able to upgrade these as well, making them stronger and stronger as you progress through the game. Items will also be unlocked as you reach achievements within the game. A huge plus here is that there are no IAPs, so the game isn’t incredibly difficult just to push you towards throwing more money at the developers. Not to say that the game is easy. It’s not.
With each of the 6 stages having 3 difficulties, Medium and Hard will offer up quite a battle. You should definitely expect to spend quite a bit of time on these, and be ready to play them more than just a couple times before you complete them, especially in the later environments, which are unlocked after you complete the beginning levels.
What really makes the game stand out is the Co-op Mode. You’re able to play every level with another player on the same device. Unfortunately, it does not support online co-op gameplay, which definitely would have made this one of the best base defense titles available in the AppStore. But it does add an extra level of fun as well as strategy to the game, which is fantastic to see within the genre.
With Chicken Doom priced at $2.99, and on sale at the moment for $0.99, it’s definitely a game that base defense fans should check out. Yet again, Bulkypix doesn’t disappoint. The tap controls could use some tightening up, and more content would be great, as right now, even though the levels offer up plenty of replay value, especially when you take into account the 12 GameCenter Leaderboards, one for each stage, as well as co-op boards, and 24 Achievements. It could use some improvements, but it’s a huge step in the right direction for the 3D Base Defense genre.
Haraka is a pong type game from Studio Joho. It is an interesting and modern take on the old classic, giving it a sci-fi style, super quick movement, a leveling up system, great graphics, and plenty of one and two player content.
In the game there’s 9 levels, each represented by a color, and progressing in difficulty. You control a character in a space age suit on a blocked in court, holding a big stick. The controls are simple, directional arrows on each side of the screen. You can move left and right, but also climb up the sides of the court, up to the center of the screen. To score a point, all you need to do is hit the ball, which is done automatically once you’re next to the ball, and have it hit the walls of the court on your opponents side. 10 points, and you win. Obviously, its ideal to try and hit all 3 edges of the other players section before the ball returns to you. If you were last to touch the ball, and the ball comes flying back to your side of the court, hitting the wall, it does not count against you. Only if the opposing player was the last one to touch the ball. Your player is also upgraded as you progress throughout the game, gaining speed, strength, and agility, which is a great addition to the pong type genre, giving it more replay value just for trying to get your character’s stats as high as they can go.
Power-ups have been included, and they all fit very well within the game. Strength increase, speed increase, agility increase, add 2 to your score, a deflector, and a 2x point multiplier. There’s also power-downs, including slowdown ball, decrease skills, remove deflector, and score – (minus) 2. Each of these power-pods can be used by touching and then dragging them onto the side of the player you want to use the ability. So you can decrease the opponents skills, and increase yours, making for some quick easy points. The power-ups are generally abundant, but you need to be careful and watch what you do with them. They can also be hit by the ball, which makes them active, so if you don’t move a power-down out of the way and over to your opponent, it could end up effecting you, which is a nice game mechanic, and adds some action to the already pretty hectic gameplay.
The two player content is a played the same way, but on the same screen. That’s right, no multiplayer online, but done on the same device. This can be kind of hard to get use to, as are most 2 player iPod games are that are played on the same device, but once you get use to it, it provides you with quite a bit of entertainment. Me and my wife have been playing this quite a bit over the last week, bringing back a lot of memories from when we first got together, and would play old arcade games at the bar up the street. So even though it might not be ideal, playing a game with two players on one little iPod, I can see it working pretty well on the iPad, which is kind of upsetting, because the game is not universal, and not retina, so I also imagine it looks kind of bad on larger screens. Though I could be totally wrong. Games with this much quick action, with gamers focusing on one little moving point on the screen, probably play well regardless of the stretched or slightly blurry graphics.
Right now, there isn’t any online support, no GameCenter or OpenFeint, but the developers have said that it’s coming soon. I doubt the inclusion of GC will include wi-fi multiplayer, and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As with most GameCenter auto-matched multiplayer games, there would be no indication of what level the other player is, and soon after the update, a lot of players would be turned off of the wi-fi multiplayer because the players with their maxed stats would be constantly whooping up on the new-comers, and there wouldn’t be anything we could do about it. The main inclusion with GameCenter will be the achievements. This will add a decent amount of replay value, with having goals set, it should take a while to collect all of them. There is also no scoring system at the moment, and I’m not sure one will be added, so that means no online leader boards, unless it’s put up with how many total wins each player has got.
Studio Joho has done a very nice job here creating a modern sci-fi pong game. Being $0.99, it’s a great game, and offers quite a bit of content, even with only one playable mode, especially considering it’s essentially pong on steroids. I was pleasantly surprised while playing, and am finding it more and more enjoyable as I progress in the game. It’s actually turning into a pretty addictive game, and one that I’d recommend any fan of old-school, or quick moving arcade games gets, even with the non-retina non-universal graphics. It’s a game that will grow on you fairly quickly, and one that you can enjoy quite a bit with a friend.