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Perfect Cell [Mobigame] – $2.99

It’s no secret that The App Shack hasn’t been around for too long. If you’ve been following us recently, you might have noticed that we’re reaching back, reviewing older games that gamers might have missed, or that we weren’t around to review, as well as our new Review Rewind section, re-posting reviews for games that are still on our devices one year later. Well, another fantastic title that we didn’t get around to is Mobigame’s Perfect Cell. After Mobigame released EDGE, they were definitely a development team that many gamers had their eyes on, and like EDGE, Perfect Cell was something that iOS gamers had yet to see, and still has yet to be expanded upon since. It’s an amazingly unique game, and one that all iOS gamers should check out.
Perfect Cell is a Stealth-based Action Adventure title with quite a few puzzle elements thrown in for good measure. Taking place in the near future (2029), a meteorite came crashing to earth. Inside of it, scientists found a living lifeform. Able to regenerate and split itself in the blink of an eye, this lifeform’s special skills quickly became a danger to humans. Now trapped within a secret underwater facility, you’ll need to find your way through corridors, get through a hi-tech security system, and take out guards in order to escape. 
Throughout the 35 Story Mode levels, spread across 5 worlds, you’ll be graded on how long it takes you to complete each stage, as well as how many humans you take out on your way to the exit. The environments are beautifully crafted, and with the latest update, are now optimized for the new iPad Retina Display, which just makes them even more outstanding. 
The controls are simple, and explained as you make your way through the first couple levels. To move the cell, you just need to tap and hold on the screen where you want it to move to. Simple enough, right? It can also dash, which is used to break through glass, and take out the humans. This can be done either by swiping or double tapping in the direction you want to dash. There will also be parts of the game where you’ll need to split the cell in two, either to complete a puzzle, or to draw the attention of the guards so that you can sneak up behind them. This is done by touching two fingers on the cell, and spreading them apart. You’re able to split the cell into three pieces, each able to maneuver on their own via the regular movement controls. Another special ability the cell can perform is to disappear. Going invisible is done automatically by not touching the screen, and just letting your cell sit in one spot for a short period of time. The last move you’ll utilize throughout the game is a special drawn out attack. This is done by tapping on the cell and holding down for a second, and then dragging a line along a path that you want to quickly move through. Doing this, you’re able to blast through glass, and cut humans in half, as well as make it through some of the quicker environmental hazards you’ll wind up encountering. 
Perfect Cell’s BGM and sound effects are top notch, adding to the atmosphere and feeling of the game, helping to draw you into the world. The graphics, as already stated, are fantastic, and on retina enabled devices, really pop. The human character models, however, are kind of pixilated, and with the rest of the graphics being smooth, this really stands out. 
GameCenter support adds a bit of replay value to the game, with 2 leaderboards, one for ‘Time To Escape’ and another for your ‘Best Total Time’. 16 Achievements are included as well, but there aren’t many that will have you going back and replaying levels, as they can pretty much all be completed your first time through the game. 
There are very few games in the AppStore that I believe screen shots do not do justice. Perfect Cell is one of them. The amazing Stealth/Infiltration based gameplay is full of action, and the puzzles are blended in seamlessly throughout the stages. Perfect Cell does have it’s flaws, but priced at $2.99 and being Universal, it’s definitely a game you won’t want to miss out on, and will not regret purchasing. Even after 2 years, it still holds up as being one of the most unique games you can have on your iDevice. The only thing I wish it had was a Challenge Mode, with separate leaderboards for each stage. Something like this, with time challenges, score challenges and more would add an incredible amount of replay value, as well as round the game out, making it feel complete. Right now, there is a bit of replay value, with the time limits, human deaths, and leaderboards on GC, but it still feels like it hasn’t reached it’s full potential. Being 2 years old, I doubt we’ll see anything new be added to the game, but it’s always nice to dream, right? Maybe we’ll see more if a Perfect Cell 2 ever hit’s the virtual shelves. 

One Epic Knight [Simutronics] – FREE

Before I get started on this review, I should really let it be known that Temple Run – yeah, didn’t click with me. I tried to like it, I really, really did, but I just didn’t see what all the fuss was about. Needless to say, all of the Temple Run clones hitting the AppStore since, I’ve liked even less. That is, until now. Simutronics, developers of the awesome Tower Defense title, Tiny Heroes, have just released the free2play title, One Epic Knight, and I’m hooked. 
Following the typical Temple Run type gameplay, One Epic Knight’s theme is based more off of dungeon crawlers, with your main character running through a castle filled with enemies, traps, hazards, blockades, and of course, loads and loads of loot. The controls are done by swiping on the screen, being able to move left, right, jump and slide all by swiping in their respective directions. 
With One Epic Knight being free2play, like other f2p titles, I was worried about the IAP model the developers would decide to use. Would the game have ads? Would the items in the shop be incredibly high priced? Would I feel like players who bought currency through IAP had an advantage over me on the leaderboards? The answer to all of these questions – NO. In fact, I’m still surprised that Simutronics made One Epic Knight available for free. If I would have paid $0.99-$1.99 for it, I wouldn’t have regretted it at all. I actually wound up purchasing a couple dollars worth of currency just to help support the developers. Though, once I saw the IAP model, I was kind of caught off guard.  
$0.99 will get you 3,000 coins. That really isn’t much, considering once you pay about 2,000 to upgrade the loot in the shop, you’ll be able to easily snag between 700 and 1,200 coins per game. Not to mention the extra coins you get for completing objectives. The next amount you can pay? $4.99, and that’ll give you 20,000 coins. It just strikes me as odd that there’s no $1.99 or $2.99 IAP option, and that the amount given is so small. Granted, I still would have thrown down a couple bucks if it was just a ‘Donate’ IAP, but I really think increasing the amount of currency given, and maybe adding a $1.99 IAP would push players to purchase them more. 
Anyway, as you’re running through the castle, you’ll be able to pick up weapons and shields. As you encounter various enemies, like blobs of green goo, and insane hatchet wielding ghouls, you’re able to use these items to smash through them. Both of these items also increase your score multiplier, which tacks on points for running, collecting coins, and for destroying enemies and objects. After you upgrade both of these items in the shop, they’ll start giving you currency for each time you use them, which definitely helps to gather up some coinage. You’ll also come across lines of currency, gems and treasure chests, all helping you gain enough coins to upgrade items and purchase one time use items from the shop.
Also scattered throughout the castle are large chunks of meat and mana crystals. If you can manage to snag the meat hanging from the ceiling, you’ll go into Rampage Mode, which lets you smash through enemies, objects and hazards so long as you’re still eating the meat. Once it’s about to wear off, you’ll start flashing, and sparks will appear around you. If you can collect 4 mana crystals, you’ll go into Mana Madness mode which boosts you forward for a certain distance, blasting through all hazards and enemies. If you look hard enough, you’ll also be able to find hidden areas, usually behind broken walls, boarded up doors, and under small holes. Some of these areas contain an insane amount of loot, so it’s a good idea to keep your eyes open.
The graphics are cartoony, but fairly detailed, and the animations for each moving object are great. I was actually pretty surprised that the game ran smoothly on my 4th generation iPod Touch. I did experience some issues with some unresponsive controls, but this was only occasionally, and nothing game breaking, though, when it did happen, it was pretty frustrating because it almost always resulted in an unnecessary death. 
Priced at FREE and being Universal, there’s no real reason not to check out One Epic Hero, even if you and the Temple Run genre haven’t really clicked in the past, and if One Epic Hero does manage to grab a hold of you, there’s GameCenter integration including 38 achievements along with 5 separate leaderboards including boards for Highest Score, Longest Distance Traveled, Most Loot Collected, Most Critters Slain and Most Obstacles Smashed, all adding to the already high replay value of the game. It would be nice to see some more enemies, and maybe even some boss battles. A huge enemy that gets knocked back, spits loot and shields/weapons for you to pick up, and can either be hit or dodged, but needs to be hit a certain amount of times before moving on would fit in perfectly with the game. It also wouldn’t hurt to see more power-ups. But as it is now, Simutronics has done a fantastic job doing something different with the Temple Run model, and as I already said, I’m pretty surprised One Epic Knight is available as a free2play title. With Tiny Heroes and One Epic Knight now under their belt, I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.  

Combombo [Wales Interactive] – FREE

There are so many great games in the AppStore that don’t get nearly enough attention, and are highly underrated. Miss Claire Garden, iDaTank, Space Tripper, Fractal Combat, Magnetic Baby, Up And Up!, Jelly Pops, Light Guardian, Eve of Impact, Awesome Saucer, Cubes Vs. Spheres,  I can go on and on and on and on. It really is a shame that all of these fantastic games get buried under hundreds and thousands of other games that don’t even compare. So is the nature of the AppStore. One such title happens to have been released last month. Developed by Wales Interactive, not really known for anything, they have put out 5 other releases; Kitten Calculator, Jibs Jump, Mrs Sprat Next Doors Cat, World Torch Challenge and Mr Frog the Neighbors Dog, all of which have basically tanked. But Wales Interactive has pushed on, and finally developed one outstanding game. Combombo. 
Combombo is a retro inspired arcade shooting game with some obvious influences from Pang. You’re put in control of a little character named Bombo. No one really knows where he’s from, or why he’s here, but one thing’s certain; he’s addicted to coins. And his top-hat, of course. Controlling Bombo is easy; drag your finger along the screen to move him. That’s it. While he’s moving, he automatically fires purple blobs of goo that turn green orbs red. Once you stop moving, Bombo produces a shield that will protect him from the orbs for a short time. If you get hit by an orb, you loose a life. Now, here’s where it gets incredibly fun – the goal of the game is to turn as many green orbs into red orbs as you can, by automatically shooting them, so that you can bank your points and collect your coins, a lot like Flip Ship’s scoring mechanics. If you get hit before you bank all your points, you’ll loose the points you’ve built up. The more red orbs you have on the screen, the higher your combo, and the more points you’ll receive. 
There are 4 separate gameplay modes in Combombo; Waves Mode, Speed Mode, Timed Mode and Lives Mode. Waves Mode starts out slow, only spitting out one green orb at first. But as you progress through this mode, more and more orbs are added to the mix, and soon, it’s one hectic free-for-all. Speed Mode requires that you bank at least 10 red orbs before you cash in in order to speed up. You start at 1, but for each set of 10 red orbs that you bank, the speed goes up. Timed Mode gives you 90 seconds to bank as many points as you possibly can, while Lives Mode gives you the chance to bank as many points as you can with only one life and one shield. 
Graphically, Combombo is extremely colorful. The environments all contain nice details, but the colors are dulled down a bit to make the incredibly vibrant orbs stand out against it. As you can imagine, this helps quite a bit, especially when the game gets hectic, and you’ve got 20+ orbs flying around in all directions. The animations are well executed, and add to the overall polish of the game, while the sounds and background music complete the picture. 
Originally priced at $0.99, you can pick up Combombo for FREE right now via Being Universal, it looks, and plays great on the bigger screen as well. However, there is one fairly big downside. There is no GameCenter integration. This means no achievements, and, since no leaderboards are contained within the game, no scoreboards. This does put a fairly big damper on the otherwise fantastic score-chasing drive of the game, and does take away from the long time replay value. Hopefully GameCenter can be added in a future update, but like almost every other title, I can really only see this happening if the game sells well. But with it FREE for the time being, you should definitely take the opportunity to download the game, and write up a review in iTunes, as well as help spread the word about this fantastic title. Otherwise, it’ll just fade away like so many before it. 

Critter Escape [Chillingo + KIZ Studios] – $0.99

Earlier in the week, we reviewed a new Chillingo title, Chimpact. In that review, we kind of noted a couple of complaints about previous Chillingo titles, and their lack of updates and support. But recently, I’ve been chatting it up with a couple of developers who have had their games published by the big name company, and it really looks like our complaints might just be a thing of the past. Hopefully. 
Chimpact, Orc: Vengeance, Jelly Jumpers, Catapult King, Eager Beavers, and more are recent releases that have either already received updates, or have updates in the works, which is fantastic news for gamers, and Chillingo. Hoping to add to the revival of this tradition is KIZ Studios, offering up their first iOS title, Critter Escape. 
The first thing that drew me to Critter Escape wasn’t the screen shots, or the game’s description. It wasn’t word of mouth, that it’s a Chillingo publication (meaning that it was most likely going to be a very well made, and nicely polished title), or even the trailer for Critter Escape. Nope, what drew me to the game was the development team. KIZ Studio has a great little section on their Official Website detailing not only their History, but also their studio’s Values. In this section, they list some pretty impressive traits that was what really piqued my interest in Critter Escape. Not only do I have faith that Critter Escape is going to get updates, and be tweaked to become the best possible game KIZ can make it, but they’re a development studio that I have no problems in wanting to support. 
Now, Critter Escape. Critter Escape is a sort of stealth influenced action/arcade adventure title that puts you in control of a cute little creature that kind of looks like a bean with arms, legs, and a face. Of course, completing the look is his spiffy crash test helmet. When you start the game up, you’ll be able to watch a cut-scene showing you how this little critter was captured by a scientific team in order to perform various tests on him. Before you start the first level, you’ll see another cut-scene showing the critter cuddled up in bed, sucking his thumb, and looking incredibly worried about his future. 
Luckily, the scientists forgot to pick up every chemical agent, and you’re able to use these to your advantage. Items that turn you into a huge monster, able to smash your way through guards, speed boosters that let you zip by and away from guards and ghost pick ups, turning you invisible and a superhero pick up that gives you super speed and strength can all be found scattered throughout the world of Critter Escape. While you’re playing, you’re also able to collect, and will earn gems which you can use to purchase these power-ups from the pause menu. When purchased, instead of only taking effect for a short period of time, the pause menu items last the entire level. So if you’re having trouble with a certain level, you’re able to blast through it by purchasing these power-ups. You’re also able to purchase gems through IAP, but these are not required to complete the game, or to unlock any specific levels, as everything can be seen, experienced and completed without the gems. 
Each of the levels fits into different objective categories. They are grouped together, with about 4 levels in each group. These range from not being detected, escaping the level before the timer runs out, knocking out all of the guards, rescuing other critters, escaping without using any special items and more. With 120 levels, there are more than just a couple of these objectives. There are also 10 separate environments, adding to the look, feel and immersion of the gameplay. 
Critter Escape contains two different control schemes. One is a virtual joystick that appears whenever and wherever you set your finger down on the screen, and the other is a line drawing scheme. I have had some issues with the joystick controls, as they’re pretty finicky, and I’ve constantly found myself needing to readjust my thumb on the screen, and if you’re controlling your character, and accidentally touch the screen with another finger, or the side of your hand, the controls stick until you pick your finger up again. The line drawing controls work a lot better, but aren’t really quick enough for the speedy levels, when you’re being chased, or to avoid a lot of the environmental hazards. The controls are nothing game-breaking, but they could use some tweaks, and I wouldn’t say no to a static joystick. 
Graphically, Critter Escape looks great. The character models, objects, and environments all provide a pretty immersive atmosphere, and with the great animations, the atmosphere is only increased. The various enemies and hazards all stand out, even though they graphically fit in perfectly with the environments, which is great, especially when speed running through the stages. The music and sound effects also add quite a bit to this atmosphere, and immersion, making it an extremely polished and well produced game. 
Priced at $0.99, being Universal, including GameCenter integration with 36 great achievements and having iCloud support, even with the control issues, Critter Escape is an incredibly fun and entertaining game. It has the usual polish that most of Chillingo’s publications include, and comes from a fantastic development team. KIZ Studios is definitely one to keep an eye on, especially if they follow through with their values, and make Critter Escape the best it can be. Let’s hope this is a new beginning for Chillingo, because they really do publish some outstanding mobile titles. 

Flip’s Escape [Shaun Inman] – $0.99

One of the AppStore’s most addictive, and incredibly awesome puzzle platformers has got to be Shaun Inman’s The Last Rocket. With it’s great retro graphics, simple one-touch tap/swipe/hold controls, and fantastic gameplay filled with style, it’s one iOS game that everyone should own. Fans of the game will be happy to hear that Flip the rocket is back, in an all new game, Flip’s Escape, an endless game that takes place after the events of The Last Rocket. 
One thing I should bring up before we start. Flip’s Escape is not a sequel to The Last Rocket. In fact, aside from having Flip as the main character, it’s nothing like The Last Rocket. Flip’s Escape is more of a mini-game when compared to it’s predecessor, but that doesn’t’ mean it’s not worth checking out. Rather than go the Kickstarter route, Shaun Inman decided to take 3 weeks, and throw together an endless game to appease fans of The Last Rocket, and let them in on what Flip had to go through after the ending of the game. The money made with Flip’s Escape is all going to help fund Shaun’s next game. It is nowhere near as depthy or content rich as The Last Rocket, but is a great idea when you look at the alternative. 
Now with that out of the way; Flip’s Escape. There’s one mode contained in the game, but there’s quite a bit of drive and plenty of ‘one-more-go’ gameplay. Flip moves left and right automatically at the bottom of the screen. Tapping anywhere causes Flip to stop moving. The goal of the game is to avoid hitting asteroids while collecting the stars that orbit said asteroids and get as far away as you can from the blast lingering behind you. 
Collecting the stars that orbit the asteroids fills up your star meter. Once you’ve collected 6 stars, it’s WARP time! While you’re warping, if you tap the screen as quickly as you can, you’ll build up your warp meter, and travel further distances. Flip also collects gems while he’s warping, which you can use to purchase and upgrade items in the shop. 
In the shop, there are two cheap consumable items which you can use to get a little further in your travels; the Nose Cone Drill, which lets you survive 1 asteroid collision and the Star Magnet, which attracts 5 missed stars. These are stackable, and you’re able to take 3 of each into each game with you. What’s great is that if you die and you haven’t used up all of the magnets yet, they are carried over into your next game. Also available in the shop is the Speed Inhibitor, which reduces your maximum speed, and the Speed Booster, which, you guessed it, increases your minimum speed. These have a pretty big effect on your warp distances, as the Speed Inhibitor will cause you to not travel as far while warping, no matter how quickly tap, and result in not collecting as many gems, and the Speed Booster will make you travel further while warping, resulting in more collected gems. You might be asking, ‘Well then why even include the Speed Inhibitor?’ – well, the game can be pretty difficult, and avoiding asteroids can be a challenge, and slower movement helps with that, which could wind up getting you further in the long run. It really depends on how you feel about the difficulty of the game as to which booster you choose to purchase. 
Also included in the shop are Friends. These friends are fairly costly, but totally worth saving up for. The Fare earns you 1 gem for every 10 lightyears traveled, and when you’re traveling upwards of 10,000 lightyears each game, that really adds up! The Trailer is your other available friend, tripling the amount of consumable storage space, letting you carry up to 9 of each consumable item. The last items are the Hulls. These are the most costly, priced at 200 and 300 thousand gems, they are purely cosmetic, but do give gamers something to play for after all the other items and upgrades have been purchased. 
The graphics and animations are, of course, totally reminiscent of The Last Rocket. If you love the whole retro 8-bit throwback look, you’ll love the graphics. The background animations are also top notch, with stars racing by leaving little streams of light behind them when traveling fast, and those streams of light disappearing when you stop Flip, it definitely adds to the whole feel of the game. The music is also just like TLR’s chiptune tracks, completing the whole retro feel that Shaun Inman has become so incredibly great at creating. 
So; is Flip’s Escape worth checking for $0.99? While it is Universal, and supports GameCenter, with leaderboards for Furthest Distance Traveled, Furthest Distance With Upgrades, Furthest Distance Without Upgrades, Furthest Distance Without a Collision and Furthest Distance Without Warping along with 20 pretty hard to snag achievements, all adding the typical endless replay value all endless games have, there will be people that this just doesn’t click with. After The Last Rocket, Shaun Inman set a bar, not only for himself, but for future puzzle platformer developers to come. Flip’s Escape doesn’t come close to hitting that same bar, which will upset some gamers and fans of The Last Rocket. However, if you look at Flip’s Escape as more of a great, unique, original endless game that you got as a special thank you for helping to contribute to Shaun Inman’s next video game project, chances are, you’ll totally enjoy it. The challenge is crazy, and with some insanely high scores on the leaderboards already, the score-chasing has already hit full throttle. Hardcore gamers looking for a hardcore endless distance gameplay experience will eat Flip’s Escape up. It has the ‘just-one-more-time’ hook perfectly done, and lets fans of The Last Rocket in on what happened to Flip after the end of the game. With Flip’s Escape only taking 3 weeks to complete, I’m totally stoked to find out what Shaun’s been working on, and is continuing to work on. I just hope we don’t have to wait too long to find out.  

Chimpact [Chillingo + Yippee Entertainment] – $0.99

Chillingo is a machine when it comes to publishing games. Every single week, I look forward to seeing what’s coming out of their studio next. Unfortunately, they aren’t very well known for screening developers. More than once, I’ve had a Chillingo game that didn’t run on my device (when it clearly stated that it was supported), had bugs and issues, or was never updated after multiple promises from developers, and have had them tell me to contact Apple for a refund because they weren’t going to fix the bugs, or make it so that the game could run on my device (a 4th gen iPod Touch, if you’re wondering). But their games are almost always super cheap, and when they do work out, they’re usually very well designed, highly polished and a blast to play. One of Chillingo’s newest publications, Chimpact, developed by Yippee Entertainment, just so happens to fall into that category. 
Chimpact doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to the table. In fact, there’s a few other games that I’ve been hooked on in the past; Drag It, Wire Way, Spoing, Parachute Ninja, Up And Up and Jump Birdy Jump all come to mind. However, Chimpact happens to be one of the best titles within the genre. Granted, I don’t think anything will ever out-do Parachute Ninja, but Chimpact comes close. With 36 levels spread across 3 worlds, along with 180 challenge levels to complete, there’s tons of content, and plenty of challenges to go through. With Chimpact including a leaderboard for total number of Bananas Collected, and 32 Achievements via GameCenter, there is some added replayability. Though, the way it’s set up, you could, in all reality, play and re-play the very first level over and over again, and hit the #1 spot on GameCenter. Leaderboards that are set up in this fashion usually deter from the real score-chasing, which is a shame.
Aside from that, Chimpact is a very solid Flick-Based Platformer. The one touch controls are tight, and precise, and the physics, while very slightly floaty, are still well done, and the gameplay is smooth and runs without any hiccups or frameskips, even on my 4th generation iPod Touch. Not to mention, Chimpact provides loads of challenge, and is incredibly fun.
Each GemQuest level has a possible 5 Gem and Gold Totem ranking. To get the 5 Gem ranking, you’ll just need to collect all 5 gems hidden throughout the stage. This will require you to sometimes scan areas by dragging your finger on the screen, because once you reach the next slingshot, or section with mushroom trampolines, you can’t go back and pick up a missed gem. The Gold Totem ranking is what really makes the game challenging. To get a Gold Totem rank in a stage, you need to have a perfect run. This means you need to collect all of the gems, all of the bananas and banana bunches, kill all the bugs and not take any damage throughout the level. 
The 180 Challenge Levels also provide loads of difficult challenges. There are 3 worlds, and 12 totems in each world, with each totem containing 5 challenges. Each of the 5 challenges contained in a totem are different, kind of set up like objectives. For instance, in one totem, you could be required to reach the end of the stage before time runs out, collect all alarm clocks in a stage before they ring and time runs out, reach the end of the level while only using each vine (slingshot) once, and make it to the end of the level without being damaged more than 3 times. There’s loads more, like getting to the end of a level before a ghost does, reaching the end of a stage while only using a certain number of vines, pop a certain number of pods in a certain amount of time… you get the idea. It’s clear that the developers have spent a ton of time figuring out various objectives for these challenge levels, and with 180 of them, there’s more than enough to keep even the most hardcore gamers busy for a while. 
With more content on the way, being priced at $0.99, a Universal build, and having GameCenter integration, Chimpact is a fantastic buy at a steal of a price. Hopefully Yippee doesn’t flake out like so many other developers who have had games published by Chillingo, because Chimpact is a great game. But for it’s price, it’s definitely worth taking a chance on it, especially if you’re a fan of the genre. Yippee does have a mind-blowing amount of experience under their team’s belt with over 130 years of gaming experience going back to the days of 8-bit gaming, so even though they’re a young studio, there’s a solid chance that they’re in it for the long haul, which is great, because with the amount of polish and entertainment contained in Chimpact, I can’t wait to see what Yippee comes out with next. 

NinjaBoy [2 Ton Studios] – $0.99

Tilt controlled platformers are a bit of a touchy subject, especially for hardcore fans of the platform genre. Fortunately, there are a couple of titles out there that use tilt controls, and do it exceptionally well, building the game around the controls, instead of building a game and throwing in tilt controls because they’re available; Crazy Hedgy, Bounce On and Hoggy are a couple titles that instantly come to mind. Well, now platformer fans can add one more title to that very short list. The brother-duo development team, 2 Ton Studio’s, who’ve, until now, been releasing games for the WP7 (originally though to be one of the iPhone’s most competitive devices, crashing soon after, they released Flying Heads, Akiak, and a title recently brought over to the iOS, NinjaBoy), have finally decided to spread their wings, and attack the AppStore bringing over the quick-level platformer, NinjaBoy.
Now, I will admit that when I first heard of NinjaBoy, I blew it off, and it was because of the controls. More often than not, I absolutely despise tilt controls in platformers, and with so few titles utilizing them and building their game around the controls, it’s pretty easy to say that 95% of tilt-based platformers are going to crash and burn. Fortunately, I’ve got some very pushy gamer friends who would not let up. Finally, I caved. And my iPod is all the better because of it. 
NinjaBoy is the story of a fallen kingdom, and a harsh ruler. Tadeo, the character you’ll be controlling, and his master, Minoru, escaped the land, running to a forgotten temple to train until Tadeo is strong enough to battle Lord Hito and take back the kingdom. 
2 Ton Studio’s has marked NinjaBoy as a puzzle-platformer. And it is, of sorts. Quick thinking and figuring out how to get through the screen-sized levels so that you can collect all 3 stars before hitting the exit can prove to be a bit of a challenge, especially after you make your way through the first set of levels. 
Starting off, you’ll need to go through the Dojo, where you’ll go through 40 levels, learning the basics, and preparing yourself to enter The Kingdom. The Dojo is split up into 3 sections, the Lower, Mid and Upper levels. Each stage has a possible 3 star ranking, though not required to move on, this is where the core challenge is. In each stage, there are 3 stars which you can grab, and an exit. If you touch the exit before you collect all of the stars, the level ends, and you’ll need to replay it if you’re trying to get all 3 of the stars. Some levels also have a locked exit, and a key. In these levels, you’re able to pass through the level’s exit before you have the key, and still be able to carry on, collecting the rest of the objects in the level. 
The levels are designed so that you’ll need to figure out the best way to collect all 3 stars, the key, and reach the exit in the quickest time possible. In the Lower level stages, you’ll learn the game’s basics, but as you move on into the Mid level stages, it starts to get a little more tricky. Here, you’ll start to encounter trip-wires and golems. If you touch the trip-wires, you’ll need to restart the level. Now, since one hazard isn’t really sufficient, you’ll also come across golems. These creatures kill you if you fall into their direct line of sight, so avoiding the front of them is essential for progressing through the stages. In the Upper level stages, it gets a little more tricky. Here, you’re exposed to different trip-wires. In the Mid level stages, the trip-wires were red, and killed you on impact. In the Upper level stages, you’ll come across blue and green trip-wires. Green wires let you fall down through them, while blue wires let you jump up through them. If you happen to go the wrong way through them, you’ll be killed. You are graded on how many stars you collect, the amount of time it takes you, and your efficiency. This is how you earn gold. The higher your grade, the more gold you’ll earn. 
In the shop, you’re able to spend your earned gold on various items and costumes, all with different abilities and stat increases. Different outfits will give you different abilities; The red outfit will let you tap and hold while you’re jumping to slowly float downwards, while the green outfit boosts you back up if you happen to fall past the bottom of a room. Along with 3 other outfits, there are also charms which, when held, can give you a gold boost at the end of every level, and potions, which let you bypass trip-wires and get past golems without being seen. 
With tight controls, playing NinjaBoy on the iPhone/iPod Touch is a blast, and does provide a great challenge. However, even though the game is Universal, there are no other control options, so playing on the iPad can get kind of frustrating. With the constant tilting, your wrists are in for quite a workout. Though I’m not saying that I’d like to see virtual controls, because the game is built around the tilt scheme, I am saying that the game is a lot more comfortable for gameplay on the smaller devices. Priced at $0.99, and containing 80 levels, each with a possible 3 star ranking, there is quite a bit of content to play through. However, there is no GameCenter support, which does take away from the replay value, and the drive to play your best to unlock achievements. Hopefully GameCenter will be added in a future update, because I’d love to battle it out on some leaderboards, and see what extra challenges some achievements could add to the game. 2 Ton Studios has provided a really good tilt controlled platformer with NinjaBoy, and it’s very well developed. I’d love to see them bring more titles over to the iOS in the future, and will definitely be keeping my eyes on them from now on. 

Master of Dungeon [Playbean] – $3.99

Ever since the release of CrimsonHeart, RPG fans have been looking for the next title to live up to the very high standards set by ANBSoft’s amazing title. Now, I won’t lie. Not one Action RPG title has made me come close to thinking of CrimsonHeart since. Until now. Playbean’s Master of Dungeon. What first brought on the memories of CrimsonHeart? The 360 degree movement. Yup, that’s really all it took. Once you play an Action RPG with 360 degree movement, all others seem stiff, and Playbean has nailed the movement, controls, and camera angles perfectly. The only question remaining; Does the rest of the game live up to the criteria of Crimsonheart? 
Master of Dungeon is a story about a place called World Tree. Light and Food is scarce, but the people of the land follow and believe in the Prophet, willing to do anything to please her. The English translation is pretty bad, and this isn’t helped by the text being broken up across lines (what a kawinkidink, just like CrimsonHeart!), but it’s understandable, and I never found myself at a loss for words not knowing what was going on in the story. Once you start you’re able to pick your class; Warrior, who has a strong physical attack with fencing skills and sword spheres, Assassin, who specializes in fist combat and is great when luck skills are increased, helping him find gold and rare item drops easier than the other classes, and the Wizard, who specializes in magic attacks and skills, and is better used at medium range instead of up close and personal.
Each different class has a different skill tree, and these skill trees are pretty extensive, offering up numerous skills to use and expand on, helping you immensely throughout the game. The skills you wind up choosing will play a major roll, effecting combat, and guiding how you control your characters from the beginning of the game. Unfortunately, the combat is not equal to CrimsonHearts. Running into a swarm of enemies and hacking and slashing your way through them will not severely drain your HP, or effectively kill you. Instead, mob management plays a roll, guiding enemies into large groups so that you can easily take them all out at once. This does, however, bring down the amount of grinding needed in order to level up, and because you’ll be leveling up fairly often, you will be spending quite a bit of time managing your skill tree. 
Master of Dungeon is set up so that you’ll constantly be visiting your tiny town in-between missions, talking to the townsfolk, progressing in the story, and starting new quests. Once you have your quests, there’s one exit out of the town, and it’s straight into a dungeon. When you start, you’re only able to go into one area of the dungeon, but as you progress, more areas will be opened, and you’ll be able to transport your character to these places directly, making it easier to navigate through the seemingly endless corridors of the world. Unfortunately, there’s not much in the way of environmental changes, which does have a pretty big impact on the game. Visiting essentially the same areas over and over again filled with different enemies does get a little boring after a while. 
The graphics and animations are reminiscent of CrimsonHeart, though not as extravagant, the attacking animations do contain a lot of flare, and utilizing the strengths of each class, they really do make you feel like a badass. The movement, death, and re-appearing animations are also well done, also having animations for various impacts like confusion, poison, and more, making the gameplay pretty flashy. Along with the great music and sound effects, it does create a fairly immersive gameplay experience. 
Priced at $3.99, and being Universal, it’s not a bad game by any means, and fans of the genre will love the 360 degree movement. It is better than CrimsonHeart? No. Not really. Is it better than most of the other Action RPGs out there? Yes. Yes it is. The 360 degree movement makes a huge difference in the gameplay, and even though it’s not equal to CrimsonHeart, I don’t think players want another game that’s exactly like CH, and I’m pretty sure Playbean knows this. There’s enough similarities to keep fans of CrimsonHeart satisfied, entertained, and hooked on the game, while also having enough differences to not be just a copy. Playbean has done a fantastic job here, and with a couple tweaks, it could rank right up there with CrimsonHeart as one of the best Action RPGs available in the AppStore. 


What makes a good RPG / Dungeon Crawler? If you were to ask someone like myself, who almost never plays them, it would be one that appeals to the masses in its gameplay encompassing something for everyone, not being to in depth to understand what the heck is going on, and having an even level progression and gripping storyline.

Orc: Vengeance, Chillingo’s latest fledgling entry to these adventures, is something that caught my eye from its initial release, and even being somewhat adverse to the genre, I thought I would give it a go. Mind you, the last time I dug into a similar title was Aralon: Sword and Shadow. I am certainly glad that I hit that Buy and Install button!

The story of Orc is actually a worthy one, even with other reviews saying that it may fall into the cliche category, with you taking on the guise of an Orc Warchief, Rok, who’s homeland clan, Argon, is threatened by the ever flourishing ‘Dark One’. Your objective is to take on said damnable force and breach their stronghold head on, and put an end to this evil that was actually brought on by the now mortified humans. There are a variety of cutscenes that tell the story, but the more interesting way the chronicle is told is via strewn about books that you find similar to loot.
The graphics are gorgeous. The animations are top notch, and the backgrounds are all exquisitely detailed. The framerate never suffers, and I can definitely say this is one of the prettier games I have had the pleasure of playing while maintaining such a great framerate.

The loot system is downright perfect, with the enthusiast never feeling the urge to even glance at the all to existent and optional IAP system. Each enemy you destroy drops some coins, and there are also treasure chests impeccably placed around each level. Another way to earn loot is to pick up dropped weapons from your defeated enemies, and sell them to the vendor whom you are prompted to visit upon each level completion. You can also hit the main menu at anytime, go to the vendor, and select the level you were on and you’ll be returned to the last checkpoint.
The weapons and shields have the typical attributes such as speed, opposing weapon upgrade capabilities, and defense powers. The weapons are all fun and unique, and I personally thought that having the biggest, baddest weapon was the best and didn’t care that it was the slowest. Their are limited inventory slots to use, which may be a put off to some, but I found the ones available to be plenty.

The leveling system is standard fare as well; attack, defense, greed (ie. coin % earned), and vengeance. Vengeance is a key component to your combat as it is limited in supply, although is replenished over time, and is what is drained when doing your advanced combat ‘Skill’ moves. These skills are found in chests, so it is key to explore, something I found pleasure in and I think adds to the game. You can upgrade all of the skills, everything from the blizzard slam attack to the replenish health points, and this is based on your character’s current level.

The combat is awesome. The interface is made up of a tap to move system, and the combat/skills are similar in using swipes and other gestures. You are allowed up to four(4) inventory gestures; I used two combat skills, and two for health/vengeance upgrades. Some may question the use of the touch to move interface as opposed to a joypad, but I can confirm that it works fine.
Combat scenes are extraordinary. Everything stops for a second, sort of a cutscene, and you will feel your adrenaline surge until Rok bangs on his shield as if to say ‘Bring it!’
The adversaries will certainly gang up and smother you if you don’t keep moving, which really add to the urgency of the combat scenes. The adventure has a great sense of pacing in that you will have an insanely intense battle scene, a perfectly placed checkpoint, and then you will be allowed to explore for a while to loot and upgrade etc. I found great pleasure in not having to battle back to back, well, not until the final few chapters anyway, but that’s to be expected when you’re getting close to your villain.

If there is one fault of Orc, is that the foray went by all too quickly with the entire game taking me roughly 4-5 hours. I certainly think that the money spent was entirely worth it however. Those looking for an all around dungeon crawler with amazing retina visuals, fast paced combat, and great albeit not too in depth character and weapon leveling up systems will find a great time with Orc and I highly recomend it to those new to the genre, as well as to the seasoned Hack n Slash veterans.

Slash or Die! [PNJ] – $0.99

PNJ has come out with quite a few really decent games over the last couple years. The first game I managed to grab from their studio was Terra – Eternal Chaos, an action RPG. Since then, Real Fishing 3D, Zombie Run, Block Knight! and plenty more have all graced my iDevice. But their latest title, Slash or Die, definitely has that spark that makes it stand out. And even though it’s pretty grindy, and has IAP with expensive items, it’s still a game that I’m enjoying quite a bit. 
Slash or Die has you controlling Blade, a super powered being who’s the only hope for Earth once Machines, Aliens, Ghosts and Demons start invading. There is only one gameplay mode, but you’re given an option for Hardcore Mode once you complete the game, which definitely does add to the replay value as well as the difficulty, and with 24 challenging missions, there’s enough content to keep you busy for a while.
Controls are simple; a left/right slider bar and jump + attack buttons. Your character basically stays in one spot on the screen the whole game, and the slider bar controls which way he’s facing, as well as how fast he goes. Forward increases your speed gradually over time, while facing backwards slows him down. As you make your way through each level, enemies will come at you from both sides, and you’ll often be faced with the decision to either attack an enemy in front of you, but risk a bad attack, causing the enemy to fly backwards instead of die, or maybe even miss the enemy, in order to be able to turn around and hit an enemy coming at you from behind, or turn around, and make sure you get the enemy behind you, and risk not being able to turn back around quick enough to hit the enemy in front of you. Mob control winds up being a core aspect of the gameplay. 
The graphics are top notch, looking fantastic on retina display, and the 4 environments that you’ll guide Blade through each have their own look, as well as enemies and objects. The character design is a huge plus in Slash or Die!, with 4 different enemy races, and a total of 22 separate enemies, each having their own unique way of moving and attacking. There are also various objects which Blade will need to either dodge by jumping, or slash through as he’s running through each of the levels. These various objects generally come at him quicker than the enemies, so keeping an eye out for them is a big priority. If you don’t, chances are these are what will cause most deaths. The animations are also very well done, with the running, attacking, and jumping as well as the explosions and each of the enemies attack animations all look fantastic, and definitely add to the look and the feel of the game. 
With Slash or Die! priced at $0.99, and being Universal, it’s a great title for fans of runners and hack-n-slash games. With GameCenter support including 2 separate boards, one for your Stylish Points, and another for your Max Combo, along with 25 achievements to try and grab driving the replay value alongside Hardcore Mode. Slash or Die! is easily my favorite PNJ title next to Terra – Eternal Chaos, and if this is any indication of the direction PNJ is going in in the future, it’s definitely looking bright.