It was a nice mix of titles this week with some licensed properties from Disney and Cartoon Network, a free-to-play MOBA, frenetic gameplay, RPGs and another Asmodee digital board game.

We start off this week with Star Wars™: Force Arena. This is Netmarble’s much-anticipated mobile multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) set in that Star wars universe. Choose a faction (either the Imperial or Rebel Forces) and build teams of Star Wars characters from throughout the various franchises and extended universes. Lead them into real-time 1 vs. 1 or 2 vs. 2 battles with the leadership of an iconic hero such as Princess Leia, Darth Vader, Han Solo, Jyn Erso, Grand Moff Tarkin and more. Upgrade and improve your team’s roster by winning (or purchasing) card packs which will help you to expand and/or improve your squad(s). Your goal is to take out one or more of your opponent’s defensive turrets and get your troops close enough to the enemy’s deflector shield to destroy it. The three-minute matches are quick and intense as you attempt to rapidly deploy additional troops as soon as your energy meter replenishes enough to afford them. You’ll find that it is often best to diversify your team with a mix of close combat and ranged units as well as some air support with bombing runs from X-Wings and Tie Fighters. Star Wars fans will delight as they unlock new unit types and leader characters (each of whom have their own unique attack style). Star Wars™: Force Arena is light-weight and super-friendly to players who might be new to MOBAs. Couple that with the game’s Star Wars theme and I suspect this one will have some pretty broad appeal. If you’ve been curious about MOBAs, but they’ve seemed a bit daunting, then this is a great place to start.

We’ve seen some interesting takes on the game of chess on iOS. However unlike Really Bad Chess, Chess Cards Game, the new release, Chezz transforms this often methodical, classic two-player strategy game into a fast-paced real-time strategy game. There are no set turns and players can move pieces simultaneously. While pieces are still restrained to their standard movement rules, you are free to move your pieces at any time. The catch is that once moved, pieces have a short cooldown period before the my be moved again. This makes for a much more frenetic and reactionary game than the carefully planned out game chess usually is. Taking a moment to think out your moves could be the very thing that costs you the game if your opponent can rapidly move several pieces in that time. The app includes a pretty extensive solo campaign as well as the ability to challenge other players in real-time online matchups.

The debut title from PRONG GAME STUDIOS, a small indie studio out of California, comes a retro arcade shoot’em up called Retro Assault: V’Lorn Moon Challenge. Nicely capturing the look and feel of a classic arcade shooter, RA Challenge casts you as an elite pilot in the United Earth Force. You are behind the dual-sticks of an advanced spacecraft with a boatload of interchangeable weapons. Blast, shoot and maneuver your way through 20 waves of enemies. Using the left stick, you can control ship direction and movement, and there is also a small cluster of buttons around the stick for quick access to trigger one-time use tactical abilities. The right stick not only has controls for aiming your fire, but also a neat, quick way to switch between your ade, energy, missile-based and default weapons. The game is meant to be a demo of things to come in a “full-sized game called Retro Assault” game which is scheduled to be released sometime next quarter. I’m excited to see what the full game looks like.

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be someone’s lifeline in an emergency call? Well in the new game HERO Unit – 911 Dispatch Simulator, you get to do just that. In this text-based branching narrative game, you take on the role of a Hotline Emergency Response Operator (HERO), picking up distress calls and selecting from a series of multiple choice responses to assess if the call is legit and/or to extract the necessary info to get help to the person(s) who need it. While influenced by actual real-life calls, some of the scenarios are pretty outrageous and others will have you hoping you make the right decisions for a happy outcome. Once you complete a call, you are presented with a newspaper clipping which summarizes the results of your call as if it were a story in the local newspaper the following day. The scenarios have multiple possible endings and you have the ability to replay calls to try to achieve a different outcome. Given that you are simulating a 911 call center, I do wish the game had optional voice-overs for the scenarios instead of just text, but I can understand how this would have added dramatically to the cost and size and also reduced its ability to be easily translated for other languages. I’m not sure how many stories are included at the moment, but the developer plans to continually add new content (for no additional cost).

A reimagining of Armor Games’c popular Flash game series, Sonny is a combat-focused turn-based post-apocalyptic RPG game where you play as Sonny (among other characters) a recently turned zombie who still has his wits about him, but is missing much of his memory. He must battle less civilized mutations as well as paramilitary forces in order to try to “uncover the truth and save the world”. The game features some rather nice comic-book style art from artist Jet Kimchrea and as you progress through the game, battle sequences are interspersed within a larger narrative. There are some interesting RPG elements with an extensive skill tree which allows you unlock new offensive and defensive skills using points your character(s) gains each time they level up. These skills help Sonny in different ways and they have differing cooldown periods when triggered, so it is up to you to decide which of these best fit your combat/defensive style. You face off against one or more enemies at a time in the typical round-robin fashion and you’ll quickly discover which attacks work best on which enemy types and which enemies should be prioritized over others. You also have the ability to buy and pickup additional items which can be outfitted on you or a teammate to buff your defensive, attack, power, stamina and other stats. I wasn’t at all familiar with the original Flash series, but I’m finding this game enjoyable. While the combat can feel a bit repetitive at times, the interesting storyline and regular introduction of new enemy types helps to keep things fresh.

While already available in several countries, next month, Cartoon Network will be rebooting their popular Ben 10 franchise with a brand new Ben 10 animated series here in the US. To celebrate, CN has just launched a brand new lane-based auto-runner mobile game called Ben 10: Up to Speed – Omnitrix Runner Alien Heroes. It tells the origin story of the 10 year-old hero Ben Tennyson, his cousin Gwen and Grandpa Max as they travel the country during his Summer vacation. Ben discovers what initially appears to be just an ordinary watch, but turns out to be the Omnitrix, a mysterious ancient alien artifact which has the ability to transform Ben into ten different super-powered alien heroes. Now it is up to Ben to save the world by donning his alien personas and fighting off giant robots and other evil beings. Ben 10: Up to Speed follows that familiar swipe to switch lanes, swipe up to jump and down to duck play style, but unlike similar 3D lane-based runners, this one is not setup in an endless format, but instead contains 60 distinct levels and five of his alien forms. Cartoon Network has said that the remaining five aliens as well as new levels will be “added regularly to coincide with Ben’s adventures in the television series”. The gameplay and difficulty are geared toward its target audience of kids. Ben 10 wasn’t a TV series that my girls ever watched in its previous 2005 incarnation (they were too young), but I plan to check out the new TV series with them once it airs in the US. I suspect if you have a child who is a Ben 10 fan, they’ll get a thrill out of getting to play as Ben’s various alien hero forms.

Next up is Towaga, the Sophomore effort from The Firm developer Sunnyside Games. Towaga is a fast-paced (and elegantly illustrated) 2D arcade shooter where you play as a Chimù, a masked sorcerer who resides atop the lost temple of Towaga. Utilizing your spiritual power over light, you must fend off waves of dark creatures. Pressing and holding down on a singular virtual analog stick, you can spin your finger 360 degrees to aim a beam of light to fend off attackers coming from any direction. When a creature enters your beam of light you must wait until it is fully entranced and then by releasing the virtual stick, you cause the monster to be exorcised. You may capture multiple beings at once and exorcise them all at once, however entranced monsters don’t stay still forever, so don’t get greedy. You also have access to a special Overbeam power which widens your beam, allowing you to capture large groups of monsters all at once. However, using this special power also drains your health, so you must use it sparingly. The game features a rather nice soundtrack and neat little visual touches like everything getting darker and more grayscale as you lose health, making it that much more difficult to see the oncoming monsters before they attack. Towaga currently features five different levels/worlds to play and you must complete one to unlock the next, with the promise of additional levels and monsters coming soon. There’s also a special “The Path of Madness” mode, however I’m not quite sure what this is yet. If you like quick action games, you’ll probably enjoy this fast-paced, stationary shoot’em up.

A gorgeous atmospheric platformer, Yuri follows a man’s fantastical nighttime bed-riding adventure after he wakes up alone in a strange forest. Guide Yuri’s rolling bed left and right as he races through the forest, gliding over grass, logs and foliage, jumping over obstacles, leaping between branches and collecting fireflies. The game is artfully hand-illustrated and is reminiscent of a classic children’s book (the good kind that you cherish and pass down from generation to generation). It too features wonderful little artistic touches like bugs and other creatures that walk in the foreground as Yuri navigates the forest, temporarily obstructing your view. Also, if you don’t tap on the screen for a short period of time, Yuri goes back to sleep, or sits to have a snack on his bed until you start him moving again. The game is very forgiving. You have no lives, instead, if you should perish, you can continue playing right where you left off (as many times as you want) and you don’t lose any of the lightning bugs which you’ve collected thus far. A pretty and charming experience, it is easy to tell that a lot of love went into making this one.

Originally scheduled for release at the end of last year but delayed to 2017,
Asmodee Digital surprised us with an about as early as you can get in the new year release of Mysterium: The Board Game. The (physical) Polish board game Tajemnicze Domostwo made a huge splash when it was first released a few years back by Portal Games and then in 2015 Asmodee brought it to US audiences as the award-winning Mysterium. Now we get a spot-on digital port for iOS, Android and PC platforms. If you are unfamiliar with Mysterium it is a cooperative deduction game that is sort of a mashup of CLUE and Dixit. A murder has been committed and the ghost of the victim is trying to wordlessly give clues to a group of psychics so that they can deduce who committed the murder, where it occurred and what weapon was used. One player acts as the ghost with the others taking on the role of psychics. Since the ghost is unable to speak, he can only present clues to each of the psychics in the form of ornate pictures which he feels gives a clue to the person, place or object that the Psychic is currently trying to guess. Each player has a different set of person, place and weapon they are trying to guess, and since it’s a coop, psychic players are encouraged to discuss amongst themselves to try to decipher the clues and help each other out. By the end of seven rounds (each round represents an hour of time passing) all players must have correctly identified all three of their pieces of information, if not, the psychics lose. If they do all get the information correct, then there is one final test in which they must guess which of the pairings is the ACTUAL correct murderer, place and weapon. If the majority of the physics guess the correct answer then the psychics win, otherwise they lose the game. The app is very well done, offering both a Story mode and several online multiplayer modes, including a quick mode where an AI player plays the role of the ghost (arguably the much tougher role). In all of their most recent digital board game apps Asmodee Digital has gone for real-time multiplayer which, while it helps speed things up, can be a bit of a pain when trying to quickly setup a game. You are reliant on other players wanting to play at the exact same time. I kind of wish this app had an asynchronous option, or at the very least, the ability to turn off the two minute conversation timer between rounds as it is sometimes slower to type to the other players than it would be to just have a normal vocal discussion as you would with the physical game. All in all I really enjoy this port and Asmodee did a great job with the UI. This is another game for which I own the physical version, but just haven’t had a chance to get it to the table yet, so it was fun way to get a better idea of the gameplay before cracking open my box.

Previously rejected by Apple because it supposedly depicted ‘violence towards children’, Nicalis has finally launched their iOS port of The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth. The game’s inspiration comes from the story of Isaac in the Old Testament in which God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac to test his obedience. I can only guess that this is the reason for its rejection, despite the plethora of Bible apps available on the App Store. The game carries a Mature ESRB rating on Steam and a 17+ on iOS. Rebirth is a randomly generated action RPG shooter with strong roguelike elements in which players accompany Isaac, a young boy on a quest to find his way to safety. While on his journey he discovers “bizarre treasures” which change his form, giving him super human abilities and helps him to fight off various creatures and enemies. The game comes at a premium $14.99 price tag for iOS (same price as the Steam version), but for that money, it apparently offers over 500 hours of gameplay, multiple endings, loads of unlockables, optional 2 player co-operative play (requires an MFi controller) with over 100 co-op characters and perhaps most intriguing…”poop physics”! I’m very curious to try this one out, but haven’t bit the bullet yet.

And that’ll do it for this week enjoy.

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