It's May Day tomorrow, glory to the proletariat! And the middle class. And everyone else who has money to spend on mobile games. And for the legion of unemployed, some free games.
This week features a strategy-heavy load of games ranging from Brazilian multitasking action to a genuine 4X space game. Sean Carey was helpful enough to try out two iPad games as well. And there are even a couple of noteworthy Android releases, who would've guessed?
I've also taken the liberty to add small icons to the game titles this week, which should help make the layout a little bit easier to read when there are a lot of games to cover. Like this weekend for instance.
The video above shows Project Dawn, an "early Minecraft engine for iOS" by kode80. [Thanks Ben!]
Brazilian indie Instant Games made a pretty cool multitasking game called Paleolithics. You control a husband, wife, and child who walk through levels and it's your job to make them smash, jump over, or shoot obstacles and enemies as they progress.
In each level you can gather blue resources, or defeat a boss for red resources, which you can then use to buy better weapons, gear, and items to smash harder, jump higher, or shoot further. You only have three lives that are shared by all three horizontal walkers and it can be pretty easy to die at bosses. Because of that, it can take a while to get the resources required to really progress, and you can find yourself replaying levels quite a few times because of that.
Despite some grinding elements it's still a fun game and worth a buck because there is plenty of gear to buy, but give the lite version a try if you are not sure if it's for you. Well worth checking out you want to play something different.
Vampire Rush is awesome. It's a mix of a top-down hack & slash game and tower defense. You walk around the map and kill vamipres, bats, and other monster to earn money. With money, you can build and upgrade towers to help you defend a gate. Money can also be spent on skills like healing (when you die you take an increasingly long time to get up again), fire bombs, freeze attacks, etc.
There's 7 levels to go through and unlockable survival mode versions of each, and it's not exactly easy on the Normal difficulty either. The controls work well, but sometimes you can keep trying to hit a bat without hitting it right until you position yourself better. As variations on tower defense go, this is a pretty good looking and fun game to play on the couch on a lazy day.
You could also see it as a vastly more limited version of Dungeon Defenders which is only $1 more. The games are not quite the same, but it's worth pointing out if you never played Dungeon Defenders.
Streets of Rage 3 (iPhone, $2.99)
You know what Streets of Rage 3 is, but does it translate well to the iPhone? Yes and no. It looks great in a stretched view on a Retina display, with only the oldschool graphics available and the option to play it in the original aspect ratio in a tiny box.
Because you want to play it in stretched mode, the controls that overlap a large part of the screen sadly become quite annoying. It's easy enough to control, but Streets of Rage 3 is not a game where you want your thumb over the side of a screen when you are trying to time your jump-kicks on enemies that are just off-screen. The boxed-screen mode doesn't suffer from this issue, but you don't want to play it that way.
The music also made a terrible transition if you use your iDevice's speakers instead of headphones, which is a shame. Just stick with one of the bazillion other ways to play this game on a screen with a controller.
Quis (iPhone & iPad, $0.99 -- universal app) [iPad impressions by Sean Carey]
Clawing through the morass of match-3 games on the App Store is a challenge for any new entrant to the genre. In the time it took you to read these two sentences, three more have been released. Quis, however, doesn't afraid of anything and boldly throws its multicolored hat into the ring for your perusal.
Quis does at least throw in a few twists to the Bejeweled formula to try and get your attention. Tiles are hexagonal, so matches can be made in more directions. Depending on the level, matching can be either color-based or number-based. Rather than a static screen, tiles continue to scroll down to the bottom, and the player loses lives when tiles hit the bottom. Making matches clears tiles from the screen, which scrolls incrementally faster and faster in classic Tetris fashion.
The time element does add some good tension to what is otherwise an adequate contender in an over-crowded market, but generally speaking Quis doesn't do anything to put it over the top. That being said, if you've got an unscratchable itch for more match-3 in your life, you could do a lot worse.
Super Cosmic Word Snake (iPhone, $2.99) [iPad impressions by Sean Carey]
If the name alone doesn't sell you on this one, let me do my best to explain what this quirky app is all about. Essentially, you are the bad guy from Centipede, winding your way towards a turret that is firing at you. To keep your snake from falling apart, you must spell words as rapidly as possible to replace and grow new segments. Words over a certain length create tougher body segments for your snake. The goal is to rack up as many points as you can and hold the snake together until you can get close enough to destroy the turret.
The core gameplay is fun enough, but in single player the novelty wears off really quickly. Where this game really takes off is in 2-player mode. A second player takes control of the turret and tries to gun down the snake while the other tries to spell their way to victory. It makes for some great trash talking, and taking turns as the snake and the turret is pretty entertaining.
The look and sound of the game are really solid and fun. The game is skinned as an old tabletop coin-op cabinet, like the old sitdown Pac-Man tables you used to find in bars and arcades. The cabinet motif plays into the Centipede-like visuals, and the sound design is appropriately retro. If you're looking for a fun 2-player iPad game I recommend checking it out, but if you only intend to play it solo you might consider giving it a miss.
Symphony of Eternity (Android, $9.80)
Stop the presses, it's an Android JRPG!
It doesn't look quite as good as Chaos Rings, but if you need a JRPG on your Android phone then perhaps this is right up your alley. Too bad it's also quite expensive.
Chances are you already own Toki Tori on Steam through various indie sales and the Potato Sack Pack, but it has recently received its Android release. It's a great puzzle platformer with a ton of levels, so go grab the potato-less mobile version! It's also on iOS if you want it on there.
Vincere Totus Astrum (iPhone & iPad, $1.99 -- universal app)
Last but not least, here is my favorite game of last week. Vincere Totus Astrum is a 4X game on iOS. So yes, you get to colonize planets, build fleets, research tech and all that. Each planet gets one action per turn and it seems easy to out-colonize some of your foes in order to build a massive fleet, because you have less resource worries than in say Master of Orion 2.
It is a bit of a simplified 4X game, but still the best one of its kind I've played on my iPod Touch to date. It is also the first one I played, so if there is a better one, please let me know! The only gripe I have with it is that scrolling is painfully slow for some reason. The screen doesn't respond all too well and when you have a galaxy to manage, that becomes annoying pretty fast. You can however just press the Next planet button and manage things like that.
Suffice it to say that if you like Master of Orion or Galactic Civilizations II, you'll like this. I just hope Gamesare Studios will fix the scrolling in a future update.
Herbert's Day Out (iPhone)
Caleb Hystad does a lot of great pixel art (like the recent Doom ones) and now has a free "short story game" called Herbert's Day Out. You are a pig who escapes his farm using tilt controls, and goes on a little adventure. And that's basically it.
It's an interesting concept to tell a story this way through a mobile game, and perhaps it's a hint of more to come. It's free, it won't take you more than 5 minutes to complete and you should just check it out.
[Thanks for sending this in Josh!]
This is an Operation Wolf clone plain and simple. It is also free today though, and it has two bonus modes for shooting targets and shooting meat in a Fruit Ninja fashion. It's even called "Meat Ninja." Because it's free for both the iPhone and iPad versions, you might as well just grab both while they are free.
Get Outta My Galaxy! (iPhone)
Get Outta My Galaxy! is a game that has gotten pretty good reviews all around, and recently received an update that adds a virtual joystiq as an alternative to the tilt control scheme. While it may look a bit like Super Mario Galaxy at face value, it plays nothing like it. It's free throughout this weekend, so why not give it a shot?
Grim Joggers has been out for a while, but a lite version named Freestyle was released yesterday. It's worth checking out, because Grim Joggers is great. But it's always good to have a demo version available.
In Grim Joggers Freestyle you control a group of 15 joggers at once. Tapping the screen lets the group jump or double jump, but because you control a group it becomes hard to save all the joggers from the numerous deathtraps that litter the levels. The further you get, the more points you'll score. Multiplier posts count the number of joggers that pass through it, which makes survival of prime importance.
Is Techno Kitten Adventure coming to iOS?
The Game Station found this image on the Techno Kitten Adventure Facebook wall which appears to indicate that it is! As the wall post states: "Hey, so, um, since you liked us, we wanted to let you know that we like you. Like *LIKE* like you. And to prove it, here's a preview of what we're officially not talking about until next week. Mr0w."
Monino (iPhone, removed)
Is that a complete and utter ripoff of all things 2D Mario? Why yes it is. UK site Electric Pig found out that developer FeiYingInfo (really?) put Monino on the iPhone App Store this week, and it has since been pulled. I guess nobody ever bothers to control iPhone apps for fraud over at Apple's app acceptance division.
Weekly news highlights:
Stem Stumper (iPhone, $1.99)
Okay, Stem Stumper is not going to blow your mind when it comes to iPhone games if you look at it and play it. But Ananse Productions created this from the ground up with support for blind people, which is pretty damn great.
You can enable a Sonar mode in the options -- as well as a no-fail mode -- that makes the grid black. I've tried to play it in this mode (even with my eyes closed) and it works very well. Sounds provide feedback to where objects and obstacles are and it's a genuinely interesting way to play the game.
The game also fully supports Apple's VoiceOver technology, which enables blind people to navigate iOS devices with a computerized voice that speaks all the words out loud, and it works well in Stem Stumper.
It's a great development that people are making games for the blind -- especially on touch screen devices that can support them. It also confronts you with how to play a game without sight, which is really damn hard if you never trained for using auditive cues to map spatial environments in your mind.
If you're interested in this new kind of experience it's worth a buy just to hear for yourself how such a game is played, and to support future development on games like this.