Since winter refuses to leave, you should refuse to leave your house. (Since my presumption of Australia in the summer is literally being on fire, I am going to assume most of you are hunkered down anyway.) This week we have some interesting titles for you. We have an iOS game that channels old school RPGs. Fans of historical figures and horror movies will be entertained by our second game. After that we have a game that resurrects a console franchise for an endless runner. Then we have a game that has death in a spelling bee. Finally, we have a beautiful storybook game.
It is hard to create an RPG that emulates the classical PC era defined by The Bard’s Tale and Ultima. Coldfire Keep comes pretty close, stripping the RPG back down a dungeon crawler filled with rats, treasure, and magic. You have a party of four characters that journey to the eponymous keep to track down monsters that attacked your town. They find that the supposedly abandoned dungeon is lit, has shops, and features a glorious treasure at the bottom. This of course leads your party deeper into the dungeon.
Considering the simplicity of this title, it isn’t going to appeal to gamers that are looking for cinematics or deep stories. On the other hand, there is a demographic of gamer that this is going to have deep resonance with. People who know who Lord British is, and don’t think Ultima is a defunct MMO. It’s nice to see a retro title that still manages to be something wholly original, and not just a re-release of a classic. The default touch controls are a bit wonky, so you should just enable the virtual D-pad and remove the double tap pickup. The game also supports MFi controllers.
What’s Good: Original material, classic gameplay.
What Sucks: Missing a lot of the story and depth of modern RPG’s. Default controls are a little flaky.
Buy it?: If you’re a fan of retro RPG’s grab Coldfire Keep on the App Store for $4.99.
What would happen if you combined Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure with Dawn of the Dead? Second Chance Heroes seems to answer that question by providing a game where you use cloned versions of historical figures to plow your way through a mall filled zombies, vampires, werewolves, rampaging robots, and weird living hamburger things. The game gives you two heroes to start with, Lincoln and Cleopatra. Lincoln wields a chainsaw; Cleopatra a magical staff that shoots from a distance. You can buy coins to unlock other figures, which you buy via IAP. You do unlock some coins through regular play, though it’s at a snails pace. The two characters you get at the beginning are enough to play through the entire game. You’re able to level them up and increase stats with XP earned through play, so as long as you like the beginning players, your dollar can get you through the whole game.
This sort of hybrid approach to make the game initially cheap, then using IAP for enhancements and additions to the game may bug some players, but you do have the whole game that isn’t hobbled. The right model seems to keep evolving. The game itself, even with the two basic characters is a really fun game that can keep you entertained for some time. Each of the game’s twenty-six levels has three challenges that will have you playing back through. The game features a hardcore mode you can play through if you beat all of those, there’s a lot of content here. If you’re looking for a more social experience, the game has a three player online co-op mode.
What’s Good: Lots of content, fun premise.
What Sucks: Unlocking all the characters is expensive.
Buy it?: If you’re looking for a fun action game that doesn’t take itself too seriously, grab Second Chance Heroes on the App Store for $.99.
It appears that the big game publishers and studios are retooling many of their lesser known franchises to mobile, and doing so via the endless runner genre. Mini-Ninjas was a surprise hit back in 2009, Eidos has released an iteration of the game for iOS. The game puts you primarily in the role of Hiro, the all around ninja. You unlock the other Mini-Ninjas as you play, though you only get to use the temporarily. Each has a bonus that you can use, for example, Futo can smash rocks as he runs. It’s an interesting mechanic, giving you interludes that change the gameplay in the middle of the game. For an endless runner, there’s a lot here. As you collect items you can create potions through crafting. You can also use the coins you collect to buy them outright, along with customizations for your characters and new special powers.
Though Mini-Ninjas is a free to play game, it doesn’t seem to be too stingy when it comes to in game currency. As long as you play most of the items seem within reach of a few hours of gameplay, though that bars you using continues, which eat up a lot of currency. This game seems to respect people who just want to play the game. The game owes a lot to Jetpack Joyride, but considering how great that game was, that isn’t anything to be upset about.
What’s Good: Nice endless runner with some unique gameplay quirks.
What Sucks: A lot of the customization and extended parts of the game could be ignored.
Buy it?: Mini-Ninjas is a neat little endless runner with a lot to offer for replayability. Grab it on the App Store for free.
Mobile RPG’s have embraced many different formats for combat Eschewing attack, magic, item menus for gem-swapping, or in the case of Spell Quest, letter tiles, these games make RPG’s into something more accessible. Letter Quest puts you in the role of Grimm, a grim reaper who slays monsters and collects gem’s. As you progress through the early levels, you’ll unlock shop keepers that allow you to upgrade your character using the gems you’ve unlocked. Each level has three stars, you get the first for beating the level. The other two are tied to specific challenges. The first is usually a time trial, and the second varies level to level. Eventually you’ll find bosses and special challenge levels. This is a free to play game, but you can play as much as you want. The IAP is used to get new gems, but there doesn’t seem to be any trouble getting the gems by just playing the game. There are little quests like using a set number of consonants or clearing a whole role in a single word, these make it pretty easy to get large amounts of gems quickly.
This game is fantastic. It is a simple game, but the variety of strategies available ensure that you can play in a way that you will feel is challenging. The game has spell books that reward you for playing certain types of words, like double letters. These then do more damage. The free to play is one of the most honest, you simply pay if you want to level up quickly. Using gems to do so, rewards you if you’d like to play to get your currency. As you play monsters will change some of tiles, adding another level to the game play. This includes poison tiles you have to get rid of to avoid damage, while whirlwind tiles change their letter every turn. These are tied to the monsters you fight, giving the various stages variety.
What’s Good: Fun gameplay, cute characters.
What Sucks: The secondary and tertiary challenges take a bit of fiddling to find.
Buy it?: If you’re looking for a fun game with great character design, grab Letter Quest on the App Store for Free.
One of the best things about the rise of gaming on touchscreen, has been the resurgence of the adventure genre. Tengami is an adventure game that uses the tablet interface to create a tactile adventure game, one based on the idea of navigating a pop-up book. The story is set in medieval Japan, it begins with a man sitting beneath a tree as all its blossoms disappear. You’ll need to explore the world to find these blossoms and return them to the tree. You navigate between stages by flipping pages, and you solve puzzles by figure out how to push and pull elements in the pages. To avoid having to click around randomly, the touch targets are highlighted.
The art style to this game is jaw droppingly beautiful. The modeling of the pop-up book style are awesomely modeled in a way that feel realistic. The puzzles have a slow learning curve that avoids the common click and pray problems that befall most adventure games. The setting is a lot more developed than the story which takes a minimal role. Playing through the game though the settings are so well done, they story matters less.
What’s Good: Great design and art, interface for puzzles is well done.
What Sucks: Story is minimal.
Buy it?: If you like adventure games, or just appreciate well designed games, check out Tengami on the App Store for $4.99.