The puzzle genre seems to be one of the most expansive genres of video games right now, reaching out and being merged with other genres and unique ideas week after week. Back in February, newcomer Fluttermind’s first iOS title, Incoboto, hit the AppStore, and gamers were exposed to one of the most unique, atmospheric and incredibly immersive action puzzlers to ever be released. And a couple of days ago, it was updated to include iPad 3 retina support, making it one of the most graphically stunning games available for the iOS.
Incoboto is the story of a little boy named Inco, living in a dying Universe, who awakes to find everyone he’s known dead and gone. Luckily, he’s not completely alone. That day, a sun named Helios approached Inco, saying he was hungry. Tired of staring off into space, watching the Universe die, they set off on their journey. Clues are left everywhere pushing him in the direction of The Corporation. The company who’s built, produced and basically rules everything, everywhere.
Movement is simple; touching on either side of the screen moves Inco in that direction, and tapping on the screen or swiping upwards causes Inco to jump. You’re also able to choose a joypad control scheme which gives you left/right buttons. Still, a tap or swipe upwards is required to jump. When you run into an object that can be fiddled with, read or picked up, a finger will appear above it, and to interact with it, you just need to tap under the finger. In order to drop an object, you tap Inco, to throw an object, you need to draw a line from Inco in the direction you want to throw, and to scan objects, you press two fingers down on both sides of the object.
Each level contains a certain amount of Starpieces, which you need to figure out how to collect so that you can feed them to Helios. Once you do, he will have enough power to open up the next Stargate so that you can progress to the next level. There are also 50 Star Charts lying around throughout the game, which you don’t need to collect, but collecting them all will get you a bonus at the end of the game.
Each world you come across will become progressively more difficult, with more and more objects, hazards, and gameplay mechanics being introduced almost every time you move forward. These include gravity beams, rotating planets, movable platforms, objects which require energy balls in order to run and loads more. The level design, and where all of the interactive objects are placed are fantastic, and very well thought out.
Graphically, the game is incredibly atmospheric, and combined with all of the clues and other text included in the game, creates a very gloomy and bittersweet environment. The lo-fi ambient music and sounds also help lend a hand to the game’s feeling, and perfectly complete the immersion provided by the gameplay.
With Incoboto priced at $3.99, it’s a steal, as it’s one of the must have titles available for the iPad. GameCenter is supported, and includes 12 achievements, but once you complete the game, there’s not much replay value there. However, the 6 or so hours it’ll take you to complete the game is 6 hours you won’t soon forget. Fluttermind has created an iOS classic with Incoboto, and if you’re even remotely interested in puzzle, adventure, or darker video games, this is one that you need to check out, and we, here at The App Shack, are eagerly awaiting to hear what Fluttermind will bring to the platform next.
Runners certainly have their fair share of fans, and it’s not really surprising. The gameplay is simple, addictive, easy to learn hard to master, and best of all, fun. Recently, these games have been changing and expanding, and usually, for the better. Studio Radko’s Starbounder is a prime example of this. A level based, space ship ‘runner’ where you glide along platforms in outer space collecting orbs and jumping from platform to platform.
Diving right in, you’re given a little bit of a story. Apparently, you’ve been in hyper sleep for the last 5,000+ years, and were only supposed to be awoke when you came into contact with something or someone intelligent. The systems woke you when coming across a giant platform. It’s up to you to explore and catalogue everything you can. What better way to do that than to race across the platforms at top-speed?
Starbounder only has one gameplay mode, but fortunately, there’s 6 separate environments, each with 10 levels. All 60 of the levels have 3 orbs which you can try and collect, acting as a ranking system. But without GameCenter leaderboards and achievements, the drive to go back and collect the ones you’ve missed is kind of lost. There is one racer which you can unlock after you get 180 orbs, and has special abilities, but the rest of the ships all have the same stats, same acceleration, top speed, and handling, so it’s primarily cosmetic. There are patterns and different colored boosters which you can select to change the appearance as well, but it really would have been great to have different stats for each vehicle.
The controls work well, having a break button in the lower left corner, and a jump button in the lower right, and tilt controls to move left and right. Each of the tracks are a straight shot, but they’re wide, and you will need to do some fancy maneuvering to make it through, but the controls are good enough to get you through, and the edges of platforms are forgiving enough so you won’t have any unfair crashes or descents into the blackness of space.
The graphics and animations are decent. There is a jumping animation which is nice, and the explosion animation is pretty cool, and both definitely add to the graphical look and feel of it all, and the backgrounds are beautiful. The music and sound effects are a huge plus as well, with pounding beats and great FX mixing in very well with the music, it adds a level of adrenaline to the game.
The level designs in the beginning are very simplistic, but as you progress throughout the game, they get more and more complex, and really become a highlight of the game. It’s very clear that lots of time, effort and testing has gone into the creation of the levels, and it has a huge impact on the gameplay, especially if you’re going to try and get all of the orbs. They are placed in areas which will require definite skill in order to collect them all, which does help to make up for the lack of GameCenter. There’s a great feeling of accomplishment after pulling off some sick jumps and quick turns to collect the 3 orbs, especially later on in the game.
There are two versions of Starbounder, SD and HD. The SD version is normally priced at $1.99, but is currently on sale for $0.99, and is made for the iPhone 4 and 4th Generation iPod Touch. The HD build is also originally priced at $1.99, but is on sale for $0.99 as well, and is made for the iPhone 4S and iPads 2 and 3. Both versions are Universal, so you should be careful as to which version you pick up. If you’re a fan of runners, especially level based runners, Starbounder is a great title to pick up. If you’re looking for a level based star racer, with twists and turns, power-ups and other racers, this probably won’t hit that nerve. Hopefully GameCenter boards can be added in the future. Having that extra drive to get better times, or collect all the orbs would be a great addition, and would keep gamers coming back to the game time and time again, even after completing the game. But as it is now, it’s still definitely worth checking out.
It’s always great seeing something new and unique hit the AppStore. With so many new developers that have hit the AppStore over the last 4 or so years, it’s incredible that there are developers out there that have ideas that haven’t been done or taken advantage of yet. That’s the case with Jorge Hernandez’s Astronaut Spacewalk, an astronaut simulation title that has you move and control an astronaut around a spaceship right above the earth’s atmosphere.
The first thing you might notice when starting up the game is the detailed controls. Going through the operation manual is something you really should do before you start playing. The controls are unlike anything I’ve experienced on the iOS as of yet. You’re given buttons which will move you up, down, forward, back, left, right, rotate you right, left, strife right, left, rotate you forward and back, and controls that will move the camera around you, however, they aren’t your typical virtual controls. On the left side of the screen, you’re given your basic movement buttons, and on the right you have your rotating, and the center of the screen controls your camera. It does take a little fidgeting around before you get comfortable with them, but once you do, the controls are perfect for the game.
Starting off, you’ll need to guide the astronaut to various spots around the shuttle. You have a certain amount of boosters, and re-aligning energy, as well as a set amount of oxygen. If you can’t make it to all of the checkpoints around the ship with the given amount of energy and oxygen, you’ll need to start from scratch. There are also set boundaries around the shuttle, and if you leave them, you’ll need to restart as well, so no making your way from the shuttle to the moon, or re-entering the atmosphere in your suit. There are some glitches that occur if you manage to collide with the ship, and keep going forward, you can wind up getting stuck inside of the ship, unable to make your way out, but this really only happens if you’re trying to make it happen.
After the first mission, you’ll be faced with objectives that generally have you moving from one area to another, and staying there while something is fixed, attached, or checked out. You will need to align the astronaut in the correct positioning in order for this to happen, which can get quite challenging. Even further on, you’ll be making your way to satellites, space stations, and more.
The graphics are definitely a highlight within the game, with the Earth, Shuttle, Astronaut, and space debris very detailed. Combined with the controls, physics, inertia, and basic gameplay, Astronaut Spacewalk becomes a very immersive experience. Something that also helps is the music and effects, as well as the constant background NASA chatter. Astronaut Spacewalk is really less of a game, and more of a challenging experience. Each of the 20 Missions provides unique tasks which you must complete before you run out of air and power.
Having a launching price of $3.99, it’s a fantastic simulation title to pick up if you’re interested in something new and unique, and are up for a challenge. I can’t really see the gameplay appealing to a wide audience, but hopefully it does. With more and more people becoming interested in space and NASA, now seems like a perfect time for a game like this to hit the AppStore, but with so many casual gamers, it’ll be a hard sell. Being made only for the iPhone is another thing that will most likely keep people from purchasing it, but if you’re willing to play in 2X mode, with a little bit of pixilation, or just have an iPod/iPhone, it’s definitely a game you should check out. I can’t wait to see what Mr. Hernandez has in store for future games on the platform. Here’s hoping this is only the beginning.
I’m still fairly new to the 4X genre, having only been into it for the last couple years, but what I’ve played so far, I’ve absolutely fallen in love with. Starbase Orion is easily one of my favorite iOS games to date, and Ascendancy, Civilization Revolution and Imperium Galactica II have totally got me hooked. Luckily for me, there were a few 4X ‘lite’ games to be found on the AppStore, and without them, I don’t think I would have gotten into the 4X genre like I have. 9 Colonies, Blue Libra and Vincere Totus Astrum played huge roles in my decent into the 4X world, and since then, I still find it hard to pass up on lite 4X titles. Astraware Limited’s Weird Worlds: Return To Infinite Space falls into this category of ‘4X lite’, and just like the other titles mentioned, it’s a great game to get if you’re just starting to uncover the many, many layers of the 4X genre, or even if you’re already deep into the genre, and are looking for a game that you can complete in 10-30 minutes.
There are 3 different types of campaign like scenarios in Weird Worlds which you’ll be able to play through, each depending on the type of ship you choose to command. There’s a Science Vessel, Pirate Corvette and Terran Frigate.
With the Science Vessel, your goal is to catalog and capture unknown alien lifeforms. While you’re doing this, you’ll need to also catalogue new worlds and various deep space phenomena so that the information can be added to starmaps. Playing with the Pirate Corvette will have you exploring the galaxy and grabbing anything of value; technology, artifacts, lifeforms, weapons and hostages. The Terran Frigate’s goals are to make first contact with alien lifeforms determining if they are peaceful or ready for war, as well as obtaining all of the technology and artifacts you can that might be useful to the military.
With each ship, you’re able to decide how large the map is, small, medium or large. As the galaxy gets bigger, you’ll have more time to explore the planets within it. The small map gives you 10 years, medium gives you 20 and the large map gives you 30. You must make it back to Glory, the planet you start your adventure from, before time runs out, or else the points you’ve collected while out in space will not be added to your score. You’re also able to choose the Nebula Mass, which slows down your ship dramatically, as well as the hostile alien’s combat strength.
Exploring the galaxy is simple, tap on a planet, and two taps will pop up, ‘Engage’ and ‘View’. You’re also able to see how far away the planet is, and how long it will take you to travel to it. ‘View’ gives you a little bit of information about the planet, while ‘Engage’ will have you travel there. Once you’re on the planet, if there are any available materials, weapons, other equip items like shields, star drives, propulsion systems, and loads more, as well as alien beings, plant life, technology and artifacts, you can put all of these into your cargo hold, or equip your own ship with them.
Unless you have an item which scans planets within your vicinity, you will not be able to tell if planets are occupied by alien beings or not until you land on the planet. If there are alien lifeforms, you can choose to engage them and find out if they’re hostile or friendly, or just leave them alone without finding out who or what they are. As you travel around the galaxy, you’ll also come across mercenaries which can be hired by trading them items from your cargo hold. Once you have hired them, they’ll fly alongside you in battle, helping you get out of tricky situations. You are also able to equip their ships with items found on the various planets, which does give the whole equip system some depth.
Weird Worlds: Return To Infinite Space is only available for the iPad, and is $4.99. It does have GameCenter support, with 3 boards for the small, medium and large sized galaxies, but does not have any achievements. Right now, Weird Worlds would be much better if it had a lot more items and aliens to come across within the galaxy as right now, it seems like after you play through the game once with each of the ships, you’ve pretty much seen everything there is to see, and all that keeps you playing is the high-score chase. Hopefully the developers have something in mind to add to the replay value. The game is solid in all other aspects. It’s a great game for those of you who are looking to get more into the 4X genre, but are finding games like Ascendancy and Starbase Orion too complex at the moment, or for 4X fans looking for a game that they can play through in short spans.
Radiangames has definitely made a huge splash in the AppStore with their previous releases of Super Crossfire, Fireball SE, and Ballistic SE. Earlier this week, their newest release, Inferno+, hit the AppStore, and as you might have expected, it’s one hell of a game.
Originally released on XBOX Live like their previous titles, this enhanced version of Inferno includes 40 levels, multiple upgrades, 3 difficulty levels along with a special New Game+ difficulty, 20 Game Center achievements, Retina Support for the new iPad and iCloud saving.
Unlike Radiangames past releases, Inferno+ is not a high-score chasing game. Instead, it’s centered around exploration, blasting away hoards of enemies and upgrading your ship. Granted, Super Crossfire, Fireball and Ballistic were all about blasting away enemies and upgrading your ship, but none of them included the exploration aspect, and considering this is the first title by Radiangames that includes exploration as a main gameplay aspect, they’ve done a fantastic job building Inferno+ around it.
While you’re blasting enemies, you’ll be searching around each of the levels trying to find all of the orbs, keys, bombs, and hidden areas. The orbs are used to unlock upgrades and purchase items like extra drones which follow close behind you, and help destroy the enemies, bombs, which take out screens full of enemies, and keys, which unlock areas of the levels that are behind impassable boarders.
You will need to collect all of the bombs you can because there are some enemies which require a bomb to take them out. There are also black holes which can only be dealt with either by completely avoiding them, or blowing them up. There’s also a shield power which you can upgrade with electricity, allowing for you to damage enemies while using your shield. In the later levels, switching between your shot and shield will be a maneuver you’ll need to get comfortable with in order to get through the game.
Adding to the excitement and overall feel of progression, every 10 levels will take you to a boss battle. These boss battles can get very hectic, and are some of the most exciting sections of the entire game. It is kind of upsetting that you can’t go back and replay previously beaten levels, because these boss battles would get loads and loads of gameplay out of me.
There are also hidden areas which are behind the levels walls. In order to find these, you’ll need to either drag against the walls, or fire your shots directly at them. Your shots go through the holes in the walls, which can also be used to your advantage, as the enemies can not go through the holes in the walls. There are some holes which only open up after you reach a certain area of the level, and some which will close behind you after you’ve entered them, letting you only go through them once.
Also hidden throughout the game are special bonus levels. These can usually only be found by using extra keys picked up throughout the game, or purchased from the shop area. These bonus levels give you 30 seconds to make your way through a level, picking up as many orbs and bombs as you can.
The graphics in Inferno+ are very similar to Ballistic and Fireball, with loads of circular enemies, each distinguishable by their colors. The levels are also designed with neon boarders, and the animations for explosions are also very similar to those found in Fireball and Ballistic, only not as extravagant. The controls allow for a static and dynamic control stick as well as switching the move and fire arrangement. There are also sensitivity settings and you can set the joysticks and bomb and shield buttons anywhere on the screen, which is a fantastic addition. On top of this, you can also use the Joypad application and use another device as your controller.
Even though there’s no scoring system, and no GameCenter leaderboard, I think Inferno+ might just be my favorite game from Radiangames. If there was a scoring system alongside the gameplay, Inferno+ would blow Radiangames previous titles, as well as loads of other dual stick space shooters, out of the water. But the game centering around exploration and upgrades kind of makes up for the lack of a scoring system. With Inferno+ being priced at $2.99, being Universal, and developed by Radiangames, who are fantastic with player feedback, and with supporting their releases, it’s hard not to support a development team as responsive as they are. If you’re a fan of dual-stick shooters or exploration games, Inferno+ will be right up your ally. If you’ve already purchased Radiangames previous releases, you’ll pretty much know what you can expect with Inferno+, but if you’re new to Radiangames, this would be a fantastic title to get to know them with. Chances are, it’ll wind up on my top 10 games of 2012 list, and never leave my devices.
Space Touch – The Touch Shooter is a new tap/arcade game from Alpha-Tauri Interactive. In it, you’ll be faced with wave after wave of enemies that are made up of 3 different colors, red, green, and blue, and you’ll need to match up the color of your tap to the color of the enemy in order to kill them. You’ll also switch between the tap play and joystick play. Between each wave of enemies, you’re able to control your ship with a joystick, and collect energy and bombs to help you get through the next wave of enemies. At the end of each level, you’ll face a color changing boss along with some side-kick enemies.
Alpha-Tauri Interactive has done a great job meshing the space shooter and tap arcade genres in Space Touch. The switch between gameplay modes is done very well, and the tap gameplay itself feels very good with the user interface that’s set up. You have color switch options in the bottom left corner of the screen, and once you get use to the set-up, you don’t really need to pay too much attention to in the heat of tap-battle. The enemies are varied, and the movement and animations are done extremely well.
Sometimes enemies will hide behind each other, and other times you’ll just need to learn their movement patterns. They can also move around 3 dimensionally, making three quarters of them unreachable for brief seconds of time. If you don’t kill the enemies quick enough, they start to shoot laser beams at you, taking away from your energy. Once your energy is depleted, you’ll need to start the level over again. After the first couple of levels, the action gets pretty intense, and you’ll be tapping away like crazy.
Along with this campaign mode, there’s 3 “classic” game modes. Each is endless, and you score as many points as you can before dying. There’s Asteroid, Out Of Energy, and Kamikaze Modes, each with different types of gameplay. In Asteroid Mode, you’ll control your ship with the joystick, and try to shoot down as many asteroids as you can. If you miss an asteroid, or your ship hits one, you’ll loose energy. In Out Of Energy Mode, you control your ship with your joystick again, but this time, your energy constantly drains, and you’ll need to maneuver around collecting as many energy balls as you can to try and stay alive. If you miss too many energy balls, your energy drains too quick, and it’s game over. In Kamikaze Mode, you’ll be faced with enemies that are not colored, and you’ll need to tap on them before they crash into you. These three extra endless modes add a lot to the replay value and high-score chasing parts of the game.
Space Touch is supported by OpenFeint and GameCenter, and you can select which service you’d like to use in the Profile section of the main menu. There’s leaderboards for each of the three endless modes, as well as for the campaign. There are no achievements, which would be nice, because most games have pretty good options for achievements. Like here, you could get an achievement for killing 500 red enemies, along with green and blue, or an achievement for finishing the campaign, or for collecting 100 bombs or 500 energy balls. Lots of possibilities, though it doesn’t take away too much from the gameplay, just a little from the replay value. The graphics in Space Touch are done very well, and each of the 11 campaign stages are varied in look and feel, and there is a very nice sci-fi atmosphere presented in the game. For $1.99, Space Touch is a very nice, professional looking game that plays great and can get very challenging. There’s plenty of replay value, and the controls are spot on. Aside from the lack of achievements, I really can’t say anything bad about what Alpha-Tauri Interactive has presented to us here, and I’m eagerly awaiting updates, and can’t wait to see what the developers come up with next.