Activision’s Skylanders series has always seamlessly blended digital content with physical components and for their latest title, Skylanders Battlecast, they once again do a nice job of expertly blurring that line. Offering up a robust digital card combat game with both a single player campaign mode as well as online PvP play Battlecast is bound to appeal to both Skylanders and card battling fans alike. Players square off with their team of up to three Skylanders (each with their own special powers, abilities and health levels). Combat consists of a frontline active character as well as well as up to two backline characters, allowing for tons of strategy with cards that affect either or both locations. Much like Magic and/or Hearthstone, you have a hand of cards, each with a specific crystal cost, you can use available crystals to activate these cards to help you and your allies, or perform devastating attacks. At the end of each turn, you will randomly get an buff of anywhere between 0 to 2 in your total crystal count and this total count persists and replenishes between turns. This allows you to eventually field more and more expensive cost cards later into the battle. You can custom build your deck of (up to) 30 cards and you unlock these cards through regular game play, IAP booster packs or by scanning in physical Battlecast cards. With 300 Character, Spell, Gear and Relic cards to unlock, there is loads of replayability and strategy involved. The characters are fun to unlock and it’s cool to see what strategies and combos you can come up with with a little luck and the cards in your deck. It is free-to-play and I haven’t felt forced to spend any real money to enjoy the game thus far, definitely worth checking out.

battleplans-attack-in-real_971414822_ipad_01.jpgAnother free strategic game which launched this week was Battleplans – Attack in Real Time & Plan your Defense. It is a squad-based real-time strategy game set in a unique fantasy world. You must select your hero and drag to assign and re-assign your troops to help save the island kingdom from the evil Skull invaders. To win you’ll have to complete objectives like maintaining control over at least two of the bases when time runs out, or you can push your luck and try to get them all and stop the clock early. If you are into leaderboards, there is also a global meta game where you fight for all of the islands freed from the Skulls in the campaign, successfully defending your territories earns earns you victory points which then contribute to your rank a and the possibility of earning “extra resources to upgrade bases, train troops, and even level up or hire extra heroes for the next war”. In the little I have played thus far it seems like a pretty decent RTS game, with a nice art style.

teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles_1033282601_ipad_04Ludia, who recently released Kung Fu Panda: Battle of Destiny as well as a bunch of game show apps (including the fun, but no longer available Amazing Race game) is back with another title based on a licensed property, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Legends. Based on a new storyline, where Kraang Prime plans to create an army of Ultra Mutants from his kidnapped mutants’ DNA (including three-quarters of the Ninja Turtles). Leonardo must find some new allies (some of whom are his former foes) and put a stop to Kraang’s evil plan. Players build up a team of up to 5 (unlocked) characters from the TMNT universe and take them into battle to complete missions. Fight through waves of enemies in a turn-based format where you can utilize each character’s unique abilities to attack and defeat all of the enemies in each wave. Earn XP and level up character, using green ooze to mutate and upgrade them further to unlock additional moves and abilities. The game uses pizza as an energy system, but so far it hasn’t seemed to be an issue with restricting the time I can play the game. The IAP in this game is the really concerning part. Card packs are the way you can unlock additional characters as well as pick up additional pizza, ooze and other items. Every 3 hours or so, players can get a free mystery card packs or using real money they can purchase varying degrees of packs. While adults will certainly enjoy the game, it is arguably aimed and marketed toward kids and as such, the IAP prices are outrageously high! A brave card pack costs $9.99, a heroic card pack is $19.99 and the epic pack will set you back a whopping $49.99. Codes located inside of TMNT action figures can also be redeemed for free card packs. So if your kids are going to be playing MAKE SURE YOU HAVE IAPs LOCKED DOWN.

crashing-season_1091547720_ipad_02.jpgClassified as an action-packed runner game by the developer, Crashing Season feels more like an arena-based gladiator or crash derby game…with animals. Set in a world adorned in fun 3D polygon graphics, players take on the role of one of the unlocked animals and basically trying to complete certain win-condition goals that generally involve running around and wreaking havoc. When the level starts, your animal will take off running and you control it simply by tapping the left and right side of the screen to turn it clockwise or counter-clockwise. Avoid bullets, golf carts and more while slamming yourself into rocks and logs to fire them at enemies or use your special ability to stun or just charge into your foes head on to seriously wreck them up. It is silly, cathartic and chaotic fun.

warp-shift_1087286731_ipad_01.jpgA beautifully rendered 3D puzzle game, in Warp Shift, players are trying to help a girl successfully navigate through a series of floating cubes. Some cubes will have doorways one or more of there top, bottom, left or right sides and you need to line up the doorways by manipulating the order of the cubes by shifting them horizontally or vertically to create a pathway to the exit. If you can complete the puzzles within a certain number of moves you can earn up to three stars per level. However, going for more than two (and in some cases even one) star can be super challenging! Normally when I play puzzle games I refuse to move on until I’ve gotten three stars, but in Warp Shift I couldn’t do that, I’d still be back on the first few levels as it is quite difficult. If you want three stars it’ll be a bit of a brain burner as you try to be like one of those geniuses that can solve a Rubik’s cube in their head planning out all of your moves. A rich and polished puzzle game, FISHLABS’ Warp Shift is well worth a look.

lifeline-whiteout_1094429166_ipad_01.jpg3 Minute Games return to their award-winning ‘Lifeline’ interactive text adventure format for a fourth outing with Lifeline: Whiteout. This time the adventure takes players to a frozen wasteland as they try to guide an all-new character, a lone adventurer with no memory, to safety and help him discover his identity. The game plays out using real-time notifications that are sent to your device and the decisions you make affect V. Adams’ fate and how his story will play out. Some tweaks have been made to the gaming system for this fourth installment. Whether you are a fan of the series or have just been curious, the fact that it revolves around a brand-new character make it a perfect time to jump into the series.

unmatch_1061419426_ipad_02.jpgUnmatch is a fun, minimalistic puzzle game that was one of the titles featured in this year’s PAX’s Indie showcase at PAX East. As the name suggests, it is the exact antithesis of a match-three game and in each of the game’s 90 levels players are actually trying to manipulate and maneuver colored hexagons such that there are NO two like-colored hexagons adjacent to one another. Like in any standard match-3 game, to manipulate the pieces, you simply drag to swap two adjacent hexes. You have a limited number of moves with which to solve each puzzle. Every x number of levels new elements are introduced to keep things interesting, so in the first few levels, there are open spaces to make things easier, then those hints are removed, then you get to levels where certain hexes are blocked from being swapped in a certain direction and there’s more neat new mechanics introduced as you progress through the game. Unmatch is a paid app at $2.99, but the game’s developer Andy, already has at least six or seven months of substantial free content updates ready to go. He was telling me at PAX East that he plans to release a new free pack of 30 more levels every 30 days through the end of the year. It appears that the game may have gone a little under the radar this week, but if you like puzzle games I recommend checking this one out, it was certainly was a hit with show goers at PAX East.

castles-of-mad-king-ludwig_1100292960_ipad_01.jpgFinally, that brings us to the digital adaptation of Bézier Games’ award-winning 2014 tile-laying game Castles of Mad King Ludwig. For the unfamiliar, in CoMKL, players are building contractors, tasked with building a lavish castle for King Ludwig II of Bavaria. One room at a time, players purchase and build rooms to add to their castles. When a room is added to a castle, the player who built it gains castle points based on the size and type of room constructed, as well as bonus points based on the location of the room. One rather interesting strategic element of the game is that players take turns being the Master Builder. His task is to set prices for the set of rooms which can be purchased by the other players (and themself) for that round. After several rounds of play, the game ends, points are awarded for a number of aspects and whomever best addressed the King’s requirements. Whichever player has the most castle points wins.

This is a board game that I have heard nothing but great things about, but had not had a chance to try the physical release, so I’m super excited for this digital release. The app is developed by Jeremiah Maher’s (who also made the awesome app for Bézier’s SUBURBIA City Building Board Game). To get you started, there is a superb 9 level tutorial which covers each of the basic concepts of the game. The app offers pass-and-play local multiplayer for any combination of 2-4 human and AI players as well as a unique 5-10 hour Campaign mode where “players take on the role of a 19th-century peasant in Germany with dreams of becoming King Ludwig’s Master Builder, traveling up the Rhine river towards Bavaria, stopping at real castle sites along the way to prove their building skills”. At launch, the campaign consists of fun and challenging mix of 15 single-player and competitive levels each of which is set at the site of a real castle in Germany. Each has various goals to complete and players can earn up to three stars (known as Crown Goals). They must earn at least one Crown Goal to move on to the next level. Additional content updates are planned for the campaign in the future. Don’t let the lack of online play deter you, there is so much content here even without this one aspect. If, like me, you’ve always wanted to try out Castles of Mad King Ludwig but haven’t had a chance this is a great, inexpensive way to learn and try the game, and be able to play it anywhere.

And that’ll do it for this week….hope you enjoy the long weekend.

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