pac-man-256-endless-arcade_1002340615_ipad_01.jpgIt appears the spirits have haunted the App Store this week, with what has turned out to be a delightful batch of new releases for iOS gamers.

Kicking things off are a couple of Pac-Man inspire titles, including HIPSTER WHALE’s officially licensed, endless take on the pellet munching classic called PAC-MAN 256. A super strong follow-up to their mega-hit Crossy Road (which was itself inspired by the arcade classic Q*bert), players try to eat as many pellets as they can while avoiding the likes of Inky, Blink, Clyde, Sue and paranormal newcomers Spunky, Funky and Glitchy. Don’t dawdle trying to grab every last pellet or the iconic Pac-Man glitch screen may catch up to you. Accumulating pellets unlocks additional, really cool powerups which can then be enabled for runs for even more variety of play and higher scores. A brilliant homage to the classic game with a look, charm and fun and strategy all its own, this one is a winner with its simple pickup and play gameplay and unobtrusive free-to-play implementation. A must have for gamers of all ages…my 8 year-old daughter is seriously addicted to this one already.

Another Pac-Man inspired title worth checking out is Crescent Moon Games’ latest offering Glow Monsters. Opting for more of a puzzle style of gameplay, time is of the essence and the chase is on as you try to navigate maze-like levels eating all of the ‘cubics’ and avoiding capture by the monster(s) as well as (hopefully) collecting all three stars before they fade away. The controls are simple, you are always moving forward and you have a single button to switch your direction, or another button which will rotate certain sections of the maze while you are on top of them, sort of like a railroad switch. Achieving three stars can be especially challenging as it requires a bit of pre-planning to reach them all in time. Unfortunately I suspect Glow Monsters may have a rough go of it against the Hipster Whale juggernaut this week, but it is a fun, more puzzly take on the Pac-Man style of play.

ghostbusters-puzzle-fighter_945641487_ipad_01One more licensed game featuring ghosts which had a worldwide launch this week is Beeline Interactive’s Ghostbusters Puzzle Fighter. Built around the popular Ghostbuster franchise, the game employs that familiar RPG team roster / match-3 fighting game style we’ve seen in Doctor Who: Legacy and Marvel Puzzle Quest. Build your ghost busting squad from a bevy of characters from throughout the Ghostbusters universe including Peter Venkman, Igon Spengler, Zuul, Slimer and man many more. While it doesn’t seem to break a lot of new ground gameplay-wise, it offers some nice fan service for both casual gamers and devotees of the franchise.

An endless game with a stealth puzzle slant, Winter Fugitives cast players as an escaped prisoner trying to avoid discovery (and perhaps even aid some other inmates) as you make your way through barricades and checkpoints during the thick of a rough snowstorm. It’s an entertaining little casual title with some nice aesthetics.

the-guides_894022200_ipad_02.jpgA crafty and mysterious little brainteaser of puzzle game, The Guides offers very little in the way of actual guidance (aside from a paid companion app, The Guides Compendium) as you try to decipher and solve puzzles with just your wits, the custom in-game keyboard and its collection of decoding tools. The Guides is quite a clever little game that currently offers 50 puzzles, with more on the way as free content updates. The game is on sale for launch for 99¢ (50% off).

These next few titles really exceeded expectations (even though they were already high).

Horizon Chase – World Tour is an absolutely stellar arcade racing game, coupling a simple control scheme with fast-paced action as you race down winding tracks, weaving through your opponents and hopefully crossing the finish line first. Left and right arrows control sideways movement, there’s a button for limited boosts and releasing the gas pedal applies the brakes. Avoiding the clutter of unnecessary car customization options, race types and the usual racing game bloat, Aquiris Game Studio has done a very nice job of focusing the game on the racing itself with a limited number of cars unlocked via skill rather than money. As a result the game is all about testing and improving the core ability of the gamer rather IAPS. Mistakes can be costly and bumping a competitor from behind may give them a boost that could mean the difference between you taking home the silver or the gold. This is the one title this week that I find myself returning to the most whenever I have a little time to kill.

everything-machine-by-tinybop_1001244846_ipad_03The Everything Machine is Tinybop’s second digital toy after Simple Machines and hands down, their best offering to date. My 8 year-old daughter and I are enamored with this app. If you are at all familiar with an educational toy called Snap Circuits, this is like a digital version of that. It is basically a simple machine building sandbox that you in which drag and connect components together to build your own sound manipulator, video manipulator, music maker and more. The easy cleanup and extras afforded by a digital version of this style of fantastic STEM learning tool offers some distinct advantages with the inclusion of some additional components that just aren’t feasible in an analog version (ie. video screen, camera, etc). The app offers some examples to get you going, but it’s all about experimentation. Emily was on the family iPad Mini and I was on my iPad Air and the two of us were building all sorts of crazy little machines to record soundbites, switch voices and more and I could see her eyes light up as she figured out how some component worked and could feel her sense of pride as she showed off her creations to me. This is a wonderful learning tool and one that will be staying on both of our iPads for the foreseeable future.

galactic-keep_971788369_ipad_02.jpgAfter spending five years developing a game, I’m sure there is a good deal of relief, but also fear and trepidation at the uncertainty of how the game will be received by gamers. Lucky for Gilded Skull Games they needn’t worry, for their sci-fi, comic book-inspired, table-top style turn-based RPG game Galactic Keep, rolls a natural 20. Players select a character, roll to set their stats and then their quest through a vast and often unforgiving open world begins as they discover and battle a plethora of powerful beasts. A fog of war element allows dangers (and rewards) to be kept secret until explored, enabling the player to expand and discover the world at their own pace. I have not even delved into the hardcore mode yet (not sure that I can handle that), but in the normal mode when your character dies (and they probably will…often) you can revive them and re-enter the game with all of the damage you did to the baddies, still intact, allowing you to make forward momentum and progress. The amount of time and polish that has gone into this game is obvious and you can easily spend hours playing. While the board game aesthetics may draw the eye of even casual gamers, I think this one will be best enjoyed by RPG and adventure Gamebook fans alike.

green-eggs-ham-read-learn_1011476555_ipad_01.jpgIn addition to Tinybop’s The Everything Machine, for the kids this week, Oceanhouse Media has launched their second of their revamped ‘Read & Learn’ Dr. Seuss interactive book titles and this time they’ve given Green Eggs and Ham the special treatment. Since having kids this has become my favorite Dr. Seuss story, so with my younger daughter already turning 6 this Fall time with Dr. Seuss is probably running short. I was thrilled to see this as the next updated app. Much like last month’s The Cat in the Hat – Read & Learn, this new app features all new animations, hidden surprises and even more interactivity thanks to 30+ learning activities. The visual are nice and crisp and my daughter Claire loves working her way through each page of the story trying to find the hidden items by tilting and swiping. A fun learning tool, coupled with the all-time Dr. Seuss bedtime classic this is a must-have app for any family with young children. Once again, it is worth noting that this is not an app update, but an entirely new app which replaces the original 2010 release of Green Eggs & Ham on the App Store, though you can still access your original purchase via the “purchased” tab on the App Store. However, this does mean that if you own the original version and want to upgrade to this beautiful new version, you will need to buy the new release.

dead-synchronicity_1018190845_ipad_01.jpgDaedalic Entertainment has just released mysterious new point and click adventure game for the iPad called Dead Synchronicity. It is an interesting storyline which follows a man named Michael who wakes up in a strange dystopian world with no memory of who he is, how he got there or what is even going on. He only knows his name is Michael because that is what people keep calling him. The game offers some nice intuitive touch controls with a simple two finger tap to reveal all of the triggerable hotspots. It has a beautiful score and is nicely illustrated. If I have one gripe with the game it is that it can be a bit dialogue heavy compared to many of the other point and click games I’ve played which can cause certain areas to drag a bit, which could be a detractor for some. This is still one that is probably worth checking out or wish-listing for a future sale pickup.

One surprise release this week was Bolt Creative launched Pocket God vs Desert Ashes, a Pocket God-ified turn-based strategy game based on a game called Desert Ashes which was released by Nine Tales Digital in November of last year. “The Desert Ashes Landians have passed through a magical portal to the remote islands of Pocket God, but the Landians’ are up for a fight as the indigenous Pygmies (that’s you) try to defend their land using their primitive weapons.” The game features a single-player campaign which offers over 10 hours of gameplay as well as an unlimited multiplayer mode. I know nothing about the original, but this will probably appeal to fans of the Pocket God series.

final-fantasy-vii_1021566244_ipad_01.jpgFinally, speaking of things I know nothing about…SQUARE ENIX has just launched their highly anticipated iOS version of FINAL FANTASY VII. I have never played a FINAL FANTASY game in my life, but I know that this is a very popular series so I just wanted to be sure to highlight it here. This is the first Final Fantasy to feature 3D backgrounds and CG movie scenes and as such, the game does require over 4GB to download and install the 2GB+ game. There are a couple of notable features for the iOS release the first of which is the a simple virtual controller with adjustable opacity and your choice of virtual analogue or fixed 4-way digital control pad options. There is also the option to turn off enemy encounters off on the world and area maps and a way to Max Out your stats with a command, allowing your to make progress if you become stuck.

And I think that will do it for this week…enjoy

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