blade-waltz_982428315_ipad_02.jpgIt may be Friday the 13th, but the App Store is still having great luck in the month of November with a brilliant lineup of new game releases for another week in a row.

Instead of going strictly in price order, this week I’ve broken my coverage up into groupings based on genres of games. Let’s kick the coverage off this week’s best new release with a couple of action RPGs, the first of which is the free-to-play attack combo-fest called, Blade Waltz. Set in the mystical world of the Elms, players take charge of a team of heroes for some button mashing PvPs, Boss Raids and Tag Team Battles. Unlike most other titles in this genre, when players upgrade one of their characters, they all get upgraded, so that will hopefully lead to less time grinding and more time pulling off enemy-smashing combos using the game’s almost rhythmic two button attack system.

heroes-curse_979045422_ipad_01.jpgA paid hack and slash RPG that hit the App Store this week (for $1.99) is Heroes Curse. Players select a hero from your typical classes of Warrior, Mage, Archer (each with their own unique special abilities and weaknesses) and then explore, battle and rank up these heroes as they journey through the randomized levels, collecting loot and “destroying the evils plaguing your village and the land”.

How about some more digital board games?

war-strategy_1028061848_ipad_01.jpgDigital board games have been making a super-strong showing this month and this week alone we have four new titles worth mentioning.

First up is War Strategy, a free, polished Risk clone complete with both local and online multiplayer options (for up to 3 people, or 6 if you pay to unlock the premium version). There are two different game modes where you either do the standard fight for WORLD DOMINATION or the perhaps more interesting SECRET OBJECTIVE mode where you are trying to be the first player to achieve your hidden goal.

thirty-days-seven-seas-pirate_1032460746_ipad_02.jpgFrom Cartoon Network and SleepNinja, the team behind Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake, comes Thirty Days & Seven Seas, a pirate themed turn-based strategy board game starring Clarence, Jeff and Sumo from CN’s animated series, Clarence. In fact, much like Card Wars and Adventure Time, this digital game was born out of a fictitious fantastical board game played by Clarence and his friends in the Breehn Ho episode of Clarence. With a hilarious (and wonderfully meta) narrative, this casual turn-based strategy game is a blast. You play as Jeff, Sumo and Clarence in their pirate personas, Captain Blackhook, Crusty Pete and Mr. Tobias J. Tobias, carefully upgrading, positioning and attacking with your characters though six large locations facing off against waves of wacky enemies and awesomely funny bosses. While I found the difficulty of this game leans more toward the casual side, there are still some nice decisions to be made and even as an experienced turn-based strategy gamer, it is quite enjoyable (especially the humorous story) and I couldn’t stop until I had played through the entire game. My six and eight year old daughters (the older of which had seen Clarence before) both enjoyed watching and playing as well.

le-havre-the-inland-port_1044671796_ipad_05DIGIDICED has set sail with a fantastic licensed port of Uwe Rosenberg’s award-winning 2012 two-player board game, Le Havre: The Inland Port. In this economic, action point, strategy game, players are competing to become the richer of the two harbormasters after 12 rounds of play. They take turns purchasing, selling or using buildings at the port to acquire resources and or money to help them increase their holdings and either fill or empty their warehouses of goods. There is a great risk/reward mechanism, whereby purchased buildings move along a track, offering increased rewards the longer you wait to use them. However, your opponent may use your buildings as well and if you wait too long to use them, you may be forced to sell them for half of what you paid for them. The game features an excellent tutorial to get you going and repeated plays will be even more strategic and rewarding as you start to learn and remember all of the game’s 31 different buildings. The app offers both local and online multiplayer (ranked and unranked) options as well as solo play against 4 different levels of AI players. I highly recommend picking this one up.

brass_933026434_ipad_01.jpgAnd the final digital board game I wanted to highlight is Brass. Like last week’s Steam™: Rails to Riches, Brass is another port of an award-winning economic board game by Martin Wallace, though perhaps slightly less heavy and daunting than Steam. Played over the course of two phases (or eras), players take on the roles of entrepreneurs, trying to earn the largest sum of money from various industries (Cotton, Coal and Iron) during the Industrial Revolution. Start off by capturing ports and shipyards and building canals to connect towns and cities to reap the benefits of the various industries. Take loans, produce and trade goods and hopefully be ready for the latter half of the game when it shifts into a timeframe after the invention of the railroad. “Use the produced supplies and activate Industries, upgrade rails, save money; the most effective entrepreneur is the winner.” Designed for 3-4 players, you have the choice of AI opponent (intermediate level), local pass and play multiplayer (or a combination of the two) as well as online asynchronous play. This one too, features a detailed tutorial to get you going.

A couple of entertaining strategy games launched this week which will suck away your free time.

tiny-rogue_1049386519_ipad_01.jpgFirst off is Tiny Rogue, the latest offering from Ravenous Games. The ultimate in meaningful one-more try games, Tiny Rogue is a turn-based roguelike strategy game which sees players questing through randomly generated dungeons, finding loot and weapons, defeating monsters, leveling up and hopefully surviving long enough to complete a series of quests. Simple in its execution, but with a surprising amount of strategy this is quickly becoming my favorite title that Ravenous Games has released. The various enemy types move and attack in different ways, requiring a flexible strategy, well-chosen pickups and a little luck, especially given the fact that you never know what you’ll be facing from room to room. This one was one of those great surprises of the week as I had no idea it was coming.

wizards-and-wagons_1030285902_ipad_02.jpgWizards and Wagons is a brilliant new fantasy-themed economic trading game with a unique premise which takes place after the ‘great hero’ has completed his quest, defeating the Demon Lord. Despite being hailed as the greatest hero of the realm, a lifetime of fame and luxury was not int the cards for you and now you find yourself poor and homeless. A wizard gives you a wagon which you can use to buy and sell goods between townships in order to try to raise the 30,000 gold pieces that you need to buy back your home. With different towns supplying certain goods and highly demanding others, the key to success is sticking to the basic economic principle of buying low and selling high. However your wagon will be attacked as it is en route to other towns, so you’ll need to make sure you save a little room in your cramped wagon for defensive items as well. Different goods have different Tetris-like shapes, and defensive items can only be equipped in certain locations. Therefore, fitting all of the goods you want to in your cart at the same time will be tricky and you’ll undoubtedly need to make several treacherous multi-day trips. Over time you will be able to reinvest your new-found wealth to upgrade your cart to something bigger and take on special, time-sensitve but rewarding assignments for The Merchants Guild. This is a super fun, creative and polished game from Touch Dimensions, the team behind both Autumn Dynasty – RTS and Autumn Dynasty Warlords (both of which are on sale for $4.99 each through next Thursday to celebrate the launch of Wizards and Wagons).

labo-leaves-18-leaf-crafts_1055385265_ipad_01.jpgAnd now a little something for the kids…

While sure, some of the previously mentioned titles can easily be played by kids as well as adults, here are a couple of interactive apps specifically designed for younger children.

Aimed at kids aged 3 to 7, Labo Leaves is the latest offering from the folks at Labo Lado. Kids get to use their imagination as they craft pieces of art from colorful leaves using puzzle templates shaped like butterflies, birds, golden fish, monkeys, pigs, dogs, chickens, cows, antelopes, ostriches, bison, donkeys, giraffes, balloon peddlers, circus clowns, the dog lady, brave old woman and leafmen band and then touch and tap to interact with them and see fun animations. Bright and colorful with nice animations, little ones will likely enjoy this one.

goodnight-little-sandman-bedtime_1024577327_ipad_01.jpgBased on the title character from a popular late-50s German stop motion animated children’s bedtime television program Goodnight Little Sandman is a cute, language-free interactive story for kids aged 2 to 5 years old. There are three illustrated locations in which your little one can interact with the people, birds, monkeys and other creatures to see animations and then sprinkle magic dream sand atop them to help them fall asleep. This is a soothing app, which could easily be used as part of your bedtime routine, to help younger children wind down and get ready for slumber time as it features some nice illustrations lullaby music to help ease the kids to sleep.

And finally let’s end this post with a little adventure…

wardwell-house_1051991801_ipad_02.jpgYou are all alone in the remote wilderness on a relaxing fishing trip when all of a sudden your boat springs a leak. Making your way to the nearest island you are about to fix your boat when you discover a series of strange artifacts and both animal and human remains. Curiosity gets the best of you and you decide to investigate, happening upon a creepy, but well appointed abandoned old home known as Wardwell House. One of the best ways to frighten people in an adventure game is by completely immersing them in the world you’ve created and Wardwell House accomplishes this with an enveloping, atmospheric and environmental soundtrack (designed for headphones) and a VR-like interface. Players can either use tilt/turn (utilizing the gyroscope) for turning around and taking in the crisp, photo-realistic black and white landscape and surroundings or use the somewhat less immersive finger swipe. The interface certainly works better on the larger screen of an iPad (as I found even on my iPhone 6 Plus some things to be a little too small to see, but this VR-ish experience is so perfectly suited for this type of game and creates a creepy experience. So dim the lights, put on your headphones and head to Wardwell House.

lost-horizon_963704019_ipad_01.jpgLastly, Lost Horizon is a great iOS port of Animation Arts and Deep Silver’s 2010’s PC point and click adventure game. Set in 1936, players start off as Fenton Paddock, a cargo plane pilot and dishonorably discharged member of the British Army. On the run from the Tong Triad after they attempted to kill him, Fenton is summoned by Hong Kong’s governor, Lord Weston, who explains how his son Richard Weston has gone missing in Tibet while trying to map the Tibetan countryside in a covert mission for the government along with a detachment of British soldiers. Weston appeals to Fenton and asks him to help rescue his son. And thus the adventure begins…

I have not played the original PC release, but this is a rather good port, featuring great voice acting and nicely illustrated visuals and classic point and click style puzzles. The interface, is quite serviceable with a tap/drag mechanic for finding hotspots (simulating what your would normally do with your mouse) and a single-tap button to quickly reveal all hotspots. There are also text trees when conversing with other characters and eventually you have the ability/need to switch between characters as well. While there seems to be occasional interface hiccups, for a five year old game, it still holds up quite well and you get a good deal of content for the price. For a limited time the complete game is just $5.99. As a special launch promotion, chapters one through seven are all completely unlockable/downloadable for Free with the one-time $5.99 app purchase price. These will likely these will be paid IAP in the future, so make sure you purchase these right away (for FREE) from within the app after download. A word of warning for those of you with small capacity devices, this game is a bit of a beast, with an initial install of 2.8 GB for just the prologue/chapter one and the voice pack is another 100 MB download. Additional ~100 MB downloads are required to install the additional 3 two-chapter packs. If you are into classic point and click adventure games, then I think you are really going to enjoy this one.

That’s all I’ve got for you this week. Look for even more new releases next week as well as the start of the many many app price drops, well-ahead of the big Black Friday holiday the following week.

Go to the second page of this post to watch the trailers for these games.