As I review games, I often notice trends as they work themselves through the industry, and one trend I’ve noticed are older franchises or games getting a second life through mobile games. Case in point, for this week’s picks, I found a couple of anime franchises with new games on the App Store, as well as an update for an arcade classic. There’s plenty of new stuff out there, too, so I’ll leave you with the latest game from the makers of Cut the Rope.


Doraemon: Gadget Rush – iOS (Universal)

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Doraemon is a classic anime character, but it’s largely unknown to US audiences.  so Doraemon: Gadget Rush will be an introduction of sorts for many.

In the game, Doraemon gets sent back in time to use his gadgets to help a young boy, Nobita. But somebody stole Doraemon’s gadgets, so you will need to get them back by defeating monsters.

Doraemon: Gadget Rush combines a puzzle element similar to Disney’s Tsum Tsum with an RPG element reminiscent of Puzzles and Dragons. The puzzle requires you to create long chains of the same character or bell icon, and while you get bonuses when you clear the bells, but you don’t do any damage to your enemy.

This game is derivative, but what do you expect for a licensed title? It’s free to play, and you get pushed toward spending real money early on. Not only is it fairly difficult to make any progress against your enemies early on, there are also dozens of things you can spend in-game currency on—additional spins, equipment, character level-ups, and additional lives. If you ignore the story and progress and just play this as a casual puzzle game, though, Doraemon: Gadget Rush isn’t too bad.

What’s Good: Fun little puzzle game. Cool characters.

What Sucks: Free-to-play come-ons are pretty intense.

Buy it? Fans of the anime or casual puzzle games should check out Doraemon: Gadget Rush. Download it on the App Store for free.


One Piece: Treasure Cruise – iOS (Universal)

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I don’t know if One Piece: Treasure Cruise is going to appeal to anyone who hasn’t read the Manga or watched the anime, seeing as it retells the story as an RPG. Although you meet all of the characters from the manga, your crew often consists of facelss characters. You level them up in a similar fashion to Puzzles and Dragons, a reccuring theme this week. (Not a surprise really; it was a huge game in Japan.)

The game’s combat is actually really interesting. You tap one of your characters to start an attack: Sound effect text flies out from the hit and then collapses back to the enemy. You have to time to tap your next character and attack again just as the first attack hits your target, resulting in a combo. If you chain together attacks from your entire team and time them just right, you can score a huge bonus.

There’s a social component as well, complete with a “friend” system. When you add friends from within the game’s interal network, you can then passively use their captains’ abilities—another idea borowed from Puzzles and Dragons. It isn’t essential, but the game seems to emphasize it pretty heavily.

What’s Good: Follows manga/anime pretty closely. Cool combat system.

What Sucks: Not much for you if you aren’t an anime fan.

Buy it? Fans of One Piece should pick up One Piece: Treasure Cruise. Download it on the App Store for free.


Metal Slug X – iPad

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Metal Slug games are side-scrolling shooters, and the arcade versions were pure quarter munchers, even on easy mode. (Some of these arcade games make even the most aggressive free-to-play iOS games seem tame by comparison). Thankfully, Metal Slug X for iPad doesn’t ask you for the roll of quarters it would have taken to beat the game in the arcade.

Metal Slug X started life as the Neo Geo arcade classic Metal Slug 2, and it took the Metal Slug X moniker upon being ported to the PlayStation. So in a sense, Metal Slug X is a re-release of the original. The game’s arcade roots makes it look somewhat dated, but the animation is clear and you’ll notice plenty of extra details.

The game uses a virtual D-pad control scheme alongside three buttons. The virtual D-pad isn’t very forgiving, and it doesn’t give you a lot of space for your fingers. I often found that my thumb would slip off the small amount of space it’s given. It’s particularly troublesome when enemies are above you—move your finger slightly off the control and you’ll lose your aim. This quirk doesn’t break the game, but it’s a major source of frustration.

What’s Good: Lots of action. Nice piece of nostalgia.

What Sucks: Clunky controls

Buy it? If you’re looking for a trip down arcade-game memory lane, check out Metal Slug X. Download it on the App Store for 99 cents.


Stratego: Single Player – iOS (Universal)

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Stratego is a classic board game—I can only describe it as a cross between Risk and Chess. You have an army of soliders with different powers, and you try to find and defeat your opponent’s flag before they find yours. As an added challenge, you can’t see which powers your opponent’s pieces hold except when your two pieces meet up.

The iOS game lets you play online battles, even though it’s considered the single-player version. I think this is a licensing issue, as there is another iPad-only version that caries the “official strategy game” subtitle.

The centerpiece to Stratego: Single Player is its campaign mode: The first few levels walk you through the basic mechanics and teaches you about special pieces such as scouts, engineers, and bombs. The game then plays through some interesting maps it, giving you a chance to learn some basics on strategy.

These maps are far superior to the plain square game board, and the scenarios give the game a lot more depth. That said, Stratego just isn’t a game with a lot of replay value against an AI. However, if you are really into the normal game, you may still find the scenarios to be helpful.

What’s Good: Campaign scenario adds a lot of depth to a game that’s pretty standardized.

What Sucks: No pass-and-play multiplayer.

Buy it? If you’re a fan of the board game and are looking for an unique approach, check out Stratego: Single Player. Pick it up on the App Store for $1.99.


King of Thieves – iOS (Universal)

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Cut the Rope was a really excellent game. The character Om Nom took off in his own right, which isn’t a surprise given the game’s cool art style. Zepto Labs brings a similar design style to its newest game, King of Theives. While this game lacks the unique character that Cut The Rope had, King of Theives provides a deeper, more interesting gameplay than its predecessor.

The game is broken up into two parts: The first part is an action platformer where you have to navigate your character through an obstacle course to collect a treasure chest. Your character moves automatically, and you jump by tapping the screen. But it isn’t that simple: Each time you jump you switch directions. Navigating around the traps requires some good timing, especially the cannons and seeker birds.

The other part of the game is an asynchronous dungeon defense/attack game. You’ll have your own dungeon and traps to set up, and other players will can challenge your dungeon, getting a chance to steal your gems. You can create a custom defense scheme, but you will have to beat it twice in a row to save your configuration.

This game is free to play, but it uses a couple different tricks to encourage you to pay up. To unlock single-player levels and challenge multiplayer opponents, you’ll need to spend keys, which increase as you advance (you can watch ads to get a couple of extra keys when you’re stuck). You can also buy gold in the app and turn around and get further upgrades to your dungeon and character. You can reasonably far without paying, but you’ll need to make some purchases in order to get advanced traps later in the game.

What’s Good: A challenging platform game with an inventive multiplayer system.

What Sucks: App pushes out notifications whenever your opponent attacks, which can lead to a lot of built-up notifications over an afternoon.

Buy it?: Fans of interesting platformers and Zepto’s Cut the Rope should check out King of Theives. Pick it up on the App Store for free.