plants-vs.-zombies-heroes_1000876192_ipad_01.jpgWhat a week! We got a long-awaited title from one of the coolest named development studios, some excellent arcade games, a brilliant adventure game sequel, loads of fantastic art and more.

Electronic Arts hasn’t done much with the Plants vs Zombies license on mobile platforms since purchasing PopCap back in July 2011 for $650 million. In 2013 they launched Plants vs Zombies 2 and that’s been about it until this week’s worldwide release of Plants vs. Zombies™ Heroes. I didn’t know much about Heroes before checking it out, but it was far better than I expected. It is a sort of mashup of the original PvZ and Hearthstone and as such, and you are playing cards to try to take out your opponent’s hero before they take you out. You have a flower hero and each hero has his or her own deck of cards and there are also some common cards which can be used across heroes. Prior to matchups, you can build and customize your deck of cards. Additional cards may be unlocked by purchasing random card packs (using in-game currency) and there is a tool to help you build your decks. Combat is turn based and on each subsequent turn you increasingly earn one more mana (in the form of sunlight), which can spent to deploy cards in a lane based format as you face off against a zombie hero. You play cards to deploy and/or buff units, or deal direct damage to enemy troops or heroes. The lanes add a neat twist over similar CCG battling games as some lanes have high ground, others are in the water and certain units can take advantage of these locations, giving you an extra boost and allowing for more strategical play. It is well worth checking out.

critical-ops_1017717218_ipad_01.jpgOur next title, Critical Ops is decent fast-paced online multiplayer FPS where players get to select and upgrade their loadouts as well as join one of two teams. Either you’ll be trying to pull off a successful critical strike operation as a member of a counter-terrorist squad or you’ll be trying to cause destruction as a terrorist. You can quickly join random online matches or host your own custom games in password protected rooms to battle it out with your friends and family. The controls seem pretty well fit for mobile, making for a quick, esy to drop in and out mobile FPS experience.

shoot-the-dragons_1119052637_ipad_02.jpgA classic-style horizontal scrolling shooter, Shoot the Dragons has a sense of humor, a cool theme, and great art and animation. Take to the skies and blast wave after wave of unique monsters in fun and frenetic arcade action. Learn the different monsters attack styles to help yo progress further. Unlock new characters and buddies, each of which has a unique skill or attack style that you can use to your advantage. This game has great polish and as a big fan of horizontal shoot’em ups, Shoot the Dragons was a rather nice, entertaining surprise from Weedo this week.

retsnom_1163684161_ipad_02.jpgMagic Cube’s latest release, RETSNOM is a puzzle platformer adventure with a crazy storyline and a unique gameplay mechanic, both of which take a little bit to wrap your brain around. The game revolves around a man whose daughter has been infected by a zombie virus. The only way he can save his daughter is to visit the laboratory in the future and steal the medicine that he anticipates that his colleagues will create. However the research team in the future is hiding and you must use a mirroring ability to flip around segments of the level to reveal hidden pathways and/or create new pathways to be able to successfully navigate each of the maze-like levels. It makes for some rather tricky level design and a lot of initial trial and error as you get used to the mirror mechanic.

eggggg-the-platform-puker_1145738671_ipad_01.jpgWell it appears that “kinda different” platformers are en vogue this week, because we also as the release of Eggggg – The Platform Puker. In this speed run platformer, you control a boy named Gilbert who has an extreme allergy to eggs. In fact, consuming eggs “literally makes him vomit like a fountain”. Having escaped from his home, Gilbert is on his way to a birthday party, but along the way must “use his vomiting superpower to survive a world of angry cyborg chickens”. Controls in the game are simple, you tap on the right side of the screen and Gilbert jumps and runs toward the right, tap on the left and he jumps and goes to the left, all the while, puking up a steady stream of neon green mush. The goal in each of the levels is to finish as quickly as possible and collect 3 eggs and a number of other objects. The neat part is that the puke isn’t just there to gross you out, it can actually be used as a tool. If Gilbert falls into a pit, you need to fill the pit with puke to float him out and continue. The game also feature boss battles and a beautiful hand drawn cartoon aesthetic. This is an utterly ridiculous and silly game, but with some solid gameplay.

lonely-sun-be-gravitys-guiding_1084945377_01.jpgI almost didn’t include LONELY SUN – Be Gravity’s Guiding Hand this week, because honestly I found it to be frustratingly difficult, but I think here is definitely an audience for it so I felt I should mention it anyways. Set on the rocky surface of five different planets, each with their own “strange landscapes, distinct dangers, and gravitational forces”, you are playing god, using your finger to fling a small fledgling planet over and through dangerous terrain to collect five planet cores to “gradually grow [the planet] large enough to orbit the lonely sun at the center of the solar system”. You’ll be flicking it up, down left and right trying to keep good control over it as you go up mountains, over rock bridges and fly over sharp objects and more. The problem is if you hit any one of the specially colored obstacles along the way, you have to start all over again, no matter if you collected one of the cores or four or them. Think of this sort of like playing a game of Operation, except that you need to get five pieces out of the body without lighting up the patient’s nose once or you have to reset and start over. The visuals are beautiful and the touch controls are spot on accurate, it can just be very disheartening to have to start all they way over once you made progress on a level. I kind of wish there was at least a half-way mark check point or something. If you are someone who enjoys a good challenge, then go for it!.

fabfocus_1080434313_ipad_01Second verse, same as the first… In 2010, early iOS developer Freeverse (Skee-ball, Flick Fishing) was purchased by competitor and Rolando creator ngmoco (who were then eventually purchased by DeNa). Unfortunately the acquisition led to Freeverse’s titles getting removed from the App Store and ngmoco heading down a path of free-to-play mediocrity. Fortunately it appears that former Freeverse CEO Ian Smith has started a new company (appropriately named) Secondverse and their first big release is not a game, but instead a well-executed photo app called FabFocus, which aims to bring Apple’s much touted (as of now) iPhone 7+-only bokeh effect to all iPhone owners. While this certainly isn’t the first depth of field iOS camera app (I’ve tried quite a few of them), it is definitely one of the easiest to use and yields great results. The app utilizes advanced human body recognition A.I. to detect human beings in the foreground and automatically mask them to blur out only what it has determined to be the background. While not 100% accurate, the results are impressive and adjusting the mask is a simple task. The resulting photos look on par with Apple’s own ‘bokeh’ examples. If you want to create some stunning pictures and don’t have Apple’s latest iOS device, this is one app you’ll want to add to your virtual camera bag. A fine and fitting debut for the rebirth of an App Store pioneer, I recommend reading Ian Smith’s insightful Medium post about starting over and Secondverse’s journey to bring FabFocus to market, despite Apple working on a similar feature.

rusty-lake-roots_1142016085_ipad_01.jpgRusty Lake: Roots is a rather disturbing and macabre new chapter in the Rusty Lake adventure game series. This one travels back in time to the year 1860 to detail the twisted family tree of James Vanderboom, how he meets his wife Mary, her unorthodox pregnancy and the children and grandchildren who spawn from this somewhat unholy union. Sick and twisted, yet deeply compelling this is a surreal treat. You can’t help but want to see what unspeakable horrors happen to and are caused by this sick family. It feels like an Ingmar Bergman film or a series surreal short films directed by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali (Un Chien Andalou). Instead of one long adventure, the game is nicely chunked into 30+ shorter memories which take place in a single, scrolling location, making it perfectly suited for mobile play. The subject matter is sure to be polarizing, but I highly recommend this stellar adventure game series.

the-bug-butcher_1090552213_ipad_01.jpgThe Bug Butcher is Noodlecake’s latest publishing effort. It’s a fast-paced vertical shooter with fantastic art and plenty of character. It really puts your reflexes to the test as you move and/or slide left and right to position yourself under bugs to blow them up, or race out of the way of flamethrowers, ground-slamming bugs and more. If you have any hope of surviving, you’ve got to grab power ups as the spawn, being careful to not let the shine of a new weapon throw you off your game, because timing is still everything and a premature rush to grab a power up could mean that you accidentally run yourself right into trouble. There is so much energy and action on the screen at once and yet my iPad Pro never seemed to falter. It has a great classic arcade feel and the desire to see what new bugs you are going to battle or what new enemies the next wave will spawn drives you to want to play more and unlock new upgrades and weapons.

mini-metro_837860959_ipad_01.jpgFinally, that brings us to the highly anticipated, Mini Metro. Ever since I first played the browser-based version of Dinosaur Polo Club’s clever subway building / time management game, I was completely smitten. When I saw an early iOS build at PAX East 2015 I quickly realized just how perfectly suited the game was to mobile devices and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the final release. Now the wait is finally over and boy was it worth it. Beautifully designed, Mini Metro is a game about designing a subway for an ever growing city by drawing lines between stations to build routes and direct traffic flow. The result of your planning is a one-of a kind subway map the is in a constant state of flux as you try to design and redesign the most optimal routes to keep up with increasing demand. It is a solid, frantic time management game which harkens back to the early days of the App Store when games like Harbor Master and Flight Control (since removed by EA) reigned supreme on the App Store. A winning and addictive formula, Mini Metro has already earned a permanent spot on my device.

And that will do it for this week.

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