Starting things off we have Cube Escape: Theatre, the eighth episode in the delightfully twisted Cube Escape point and click adventure game series (a continuation of the Rusty Lake story), in which players must “fulfill all 6 plays in order to continue their journey.” I absolutely LOVE this series and this is another fun point and click freebie that is not to be missed.
Next up is the latest free-to-play offering from 10tons Ltd. A fun mashup of word game and level-based RPG, Spellspire sees players trying to form words from a bank of 10 letters in order to attack waves of enemies. Looted gold can be spent on various upgrades (like more powerful “wands, hats and robes with magical special effects and abilities”) which will undoubtedly prove useful as you fight your way up to the 100th floor of the tower. On each turn you’ll spell a word using only the letters in the letter bank. If not used before, the word will cause a spell to be canted.
If you are looking for something rather unique, FrozenPepper’s Castle Of Cards brings a popular analog dexterity time-passing pastime to the digital tabletop. Players attempts to “build the nicest, the tallest, the perfect house of cards they can imagine” from a standard deck of 52 playing cards. The app utilizes the multi-touch interface of your iPhone or iPad (preferred) to recreate the experience of stacking cards. While there is a bit of an initial learning curve, the app does an impressive job of creating a fun and challenging experience that closely mimics the tension, frustration and celebration of its analog counterpart. There is a Competitive mode where you can compete online via GameCenter to build the tallest card tower with a limited number of “undo” actions, or you can be a little less stressed and experiment and hone your digital card stacking skills in the Free Build mode.
Over 190 years ago, English writer and cleric, Charles Caleb Colton famously said that “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” and this notion could easily be applied to our next game, Evo Explores. Sick of his day job making “stupid match three games”, Ukrainian developer Kyrylo Kuzyk was deeply inspired by ustwo’s award-winning game Monument Valley, quit his job and spent 16 months creating his own perspective-bending puzzle game called Evo Explores. While there is no doubt the games are quite similar, and I am one of the first people to call out similar games, this case feels a bit different to me. There are loads of platformers, loads of match-three games and plenty of other proliferate genres of games on the App Store, all of which began with a single game that was considered original and fresh in its day, so why couldn’t Monument Valley lead to a whole new genre of games as well? The fact is that across all genres, there are plenty of similar games on the App Store and other platforms as well. Evo does not feel like a simple steal the code and re-skin scenario. If you don’t want to support the game, because you feel like it was stolen from Monument Valley, then fine, I can respect your opinion, however, if you give this one a chance you’ll likely find it charming in its own right and see that a lot of work and effort has gone into making this game and that it is not some sort of quick money grab, but rather a labor of love by a true fan of the original and this possibly emergent genre. Either way, before passing judgement, I’d recommend reading the full story of the game’s development, in this blog post from the dev himself.
This next title came out a couple of weeks ago, but I somehow completely missed it, so I wanted to make sure I rectified that this week. Kamisado is Scorpius Forge’s digital implementation of designer Peter Burley’s 2009 two-player abstract strategy board game of the same name. Played on a colorful 8×8 gridded board, the aim of Kamisado is to move one of your 8 towers from your home row at the bottom of the board to your opponent’s home row on the opposite side of the board. The first player to do so wins. To start the match, one player selects any of their towers and moves it forward either diagonally or in a straight line, landing on an open space. The color of that space which they land on dictates the color of the tower that their opponent must then move. Play continues with the color of each future landing space dictating each subsequent move. You can play on the same device against another human opponent or against five levels of AI (from Very Easy to Master). Or you can take your game online against friends and opponents from all around the world. There is an excellent, detailed tutorial to get you going as well as an option to show you all your valid moves on each turn. However, developing a winning strategy is up to you. I wasn’t at all familiar with the physical game before the release of this app, but I instantly became a fan. The fact that you are deciding which piece your opponent moves next is really neat and adds some nice tension as you try to be sure that you don’t accidentally hand the win toy your opponent. Highly recommended, Kamisado is currently still on a 50% off launch sale price of $1.99
Speaking of strategy games, next up is the uber-charming turn-based strategy game and Apple’s Editor’s Choice award winner, Warbits. This brilliant iOS debut from the team at Risky Lab features a funny storyline about a war simulator gone awry. Designed to give peace a “fighting chance” by letting warring factions settle their differences w/o actual casualties, the Warbits simulator was supposed to be the ultimate decision maker. However the simulator has malfunctioned and now you must try to save the galaxy. The game has a classic, strategic feel to it, and features a nice variety of troop types, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, allowing for plenty of planned and emergent strategies, with multiple available paths to victory. Players take turns positioning their troops, attacking and/or capturing bases in a race to either capture their enemy’s home base or take out all of their troops which have the ability to capture bases. The campaign mode features 20 different missions, spread across 5 unique environments. There is also a full asynchronous multiplayer mode for local or online battles against friends or AIs. The game is really humorous and gameplay is enhanced by spectacular animated graphics and loads of polish. If you are a fan of turn-based strategy games, this is probably one of the most charming to hit iOS since Outwitters or Hero Academy. Warbits is currently available at the special bargain launch price of $2.99 and worth every penny.
Next up is an interesting educational RPG / Trivia mashup called Dungenious. With the ultimate goal of making learning fun, players dungeon dive as usual, collecting loot and avoiding or attacking the various monsters they happen upon as the go. However in this game, attacks are performed by correctly answering multiple choice trivia questions in a selected topic area (from a bank of 50 topics). Your pool of questions starts with just a single questions and then grows as you make our way further and further through the game. This means that at first there is quite a bit of repetition, creating an ideal educational tool for kids who may be trying to memorize something or quiz themselves before an exam; basically anything you would normally use flash cards for. In fact the game even allows you to create your own quizzes through Quizlet and load them into the game. As you play you have the opportunity to upgrade your hero, unlock new quiz types and eventually face boss battles. If you have a child who struggles to stay focused while studying, this might be a fun way to help break up the monotony and gamify learning.
Finally that brings us to the latest offering from Headup Games, Toby: The Secret Mine. A bit of a departure from their standard fare, this dark, environmental LIMBO-ish puzzle platformer was originally released on Steam last year and has now made its way to iOS devices and the Apple TV. Life in a small peaceful village gets turned upside-down when many of its residents get kidnapped. After several failed rescue attempts, a little boy named Toby takes up the charge and decides to enter the scary forest himself on a dangerous quest to find the missing villagers. Using that same creepy silhouette style as LIMBO, the game has a very similar control and feel. I found it to be a bit easier than LIMBO, and the controls could use a little bit of refining/tightening up, though while I can’t really recommend it over LIMBO itself, Toby is still a very enjoyable game in its own right, with some nice puzzle design as the game progresses. If you are looking for more experiences in that LIMBO style, Toby: The Secret Mine is another PC port you should be happy to see make its way to iOS.
That’s all I’ve got for you this week. Stay tuned for some PAX East previews and post-show reports very soon as we head into PAX East weekend April 22-24th.