Boy howdy did we have another super week of new releases last week!

Brimming with variety and memorable experiences, there were plenty of new titles to choose from the past week, with something for just about every mobile gamer.

Starting things off, we have Digby Forever, a new endless digger from 3 Sprockets (PAC-MAN 256, Outfolded, Cubemen). Players are trying to help Digby drill further and further down, collecting crystals and setting off explosions as he goes while dodging enemies, lasers, cave-ins lava and more. To assist him in each run players must apply three ability cards to Digby. These come in random packs and are only good for a certain period of time like 1 to 3 minutes of gameplay. These have various effects like speeding up drilling time, skipping head 50m, revival after Digby dies and more. There are fun new characters to unlock, even an Unfolded-themed character. The way they’ve implemented these cards with a timer is an interesting choice and it forces to the player to keep replaying to get new cards as the old ones disappear after expiration. If you like endless games then I think you will enjoy the chaos of this one, especially once you start having to dodge chain reactions of explosions, monsters, lasers and more all in rapid succession.

Set in a post-apocalypse North America, Gunman Taco Truck is an off the wall adventure game mashup that is part shooter, part Diner Dash and you patrol the abandoned highways mowing down mutant beasts and road signs with a barrage of bullets. Collect the meat and scrap metal as supplies for your unique mobile taco business as you try to make your way to the safe haven of Winnipeg, Canada, where there are no taco trucks “and your family’s taco business can thrive”. It’s a weird mashup of genres which, where the result is greater than it parts, especially when coupled with the offbeat theme; the whole thing works rather well.

Created by a mother father and their three teenage sons, Battle for Candora is charming little tactical deck-building game which also promotes healthy eating habits. The game is set in the colorful alien world of Candora in which players are trying to battle their way through more than 65 missions to stop the food coma-like disease known as the “Grey Plague”. The Gray are a race of alien beings who have hooked humanity on sugary treats and the only cure is a rare substance known as Gluconium-6. Battles are fought in a number of stages where characters (or Champions) are moved, healed and/or buffed. Food may be thrown at the enemy for a longer lasting damage or used for a standard attack. One Champion may occupy attack position with up to two more in support. Champions each unique abilities and weapons which, when used strategically can give the player the edge in battles. While the game does have this homebrew quality to it, I found that endearing and it adds to its overall charm. The gameplay is solid, with some interesting decisions to be made, depending on your card draws. It is free to play and certainly worth a look.

A mobile platformer with a neat little twist, Lit the Torch puts players in the role of a Night Watch, charged with lighting all of the torches in each level. There are the standard virtual buttons for left and right movement and jumping, which allow the player to navigate platforms and reach the torches however, the thing that sets Lit the Torch apart, is that final button which opens a portal into another time. This portal can be freely dragged and repositioned around the screen (or turned off completely) to reveal additional torches oe hide portions of the screen to allow easy access to previously unavailable platforms. This one element creates this rather cool puzzlly aspect to the game that elevates it from just another mobile platformer into a fresh and original experience. An inexpensive and unassuming fun find, don’t let this one go unnoticed.

Causality is a challenging new puzzle game that is all about time manipulation and altering the sequence of events in each level to allow the stranded astronauts to reach safety. The astronaut(s) move on their own around the pathways in preset patterns unless the player pauses the action and changes the direction of specified squares on the board. The initial levels (while sometimes tricky) are fairly straight forward, with just a rotation here and there required to direct the astronaut where he needs to go while avoiding pitfalls. However, when the concept of time paradoxes gets introduced into the mix, things start getting a bit mind melty. Now players must work with one or more of their past selves in order to reach multiple color-coded safety zones in a single level. Flip switches, block paths and alter the course of time such that the astronauts avoid running into one of their past selves and they all each reach their specified safety zone(s). There is a great build up in complexity and this one will definitely get you thinking as you use a bit of trial and error (made painless by the excellent time scrubber swipe tool) to make sense of the time twisting puzzles.

Who knew a single block could have so much character and emotion. In Evergrow players drag a cute block-like lifeform around space helping him to grow bigger by attaching like-colored blocks to the outside of him. Other colored blocks will be floating around space and must be fended off either by dragging Chromaroid to dodge them or by directly flicking them away. There are other dangers too like mines and fast-moving bomb-like particles. Each level has 3 goals which include things like the standard “become bigger” to a specified size, to destroying a certain number of blocks or collecting a specified number of coins. As he grows and survives, Chromaroid will encounter a number of different types of special and power blocks, like ones that fill in areas when attached (to help him grow faster), shield blocks, lightning blocks and cannon blocks which will fire at and break up enemies which may get too close. Later levels introduce new concepts which expand and spice up the gameplay, like survival levels where you need to tackle regular, consistent waves of enemies, black hole levels where the only light in the game is temporarily provided by special blocks which light up a small section of space near where they’ve been attached to the Chromaroid. Evergrow features a beautiful atmospheric score, a top-notch fluid physics engine and I found the game to be quite enthralling, easily losing myself and all track of time as I fought to defend and grow my tiny little Chromaroid.

A real killer of a puzzle game (quite literally) Slayaway Camp takes the classic sequential slide puzzler where one must move a person in a certain order of directions to reach a goal point, and adds a campy dose of 80’s slasher film hi-jinx. In each level the player takes on the role of a psycho killer, determined to kill all of the camp counsellors and maybe a few police offers and other individuals who just happen to get in his way. There are loads of gruesome and rather creative ways in which the killer dispatches of his prey and new elements like fires, bookshelves, ponds and more will come into play to restrict his movement or assist him in his murderous mission, depending on the direction of approach. Brimming with character and camp, this is one of the most entertaining implementations of this genre of games. Much like with Party Hard Go, I’d be lying if it wasn’t just a little disturbing that a game can make serial murder fun and charming but these voxel art killers are just so darn appealing and you can’t wait to see who you’ll unlock next. Very well done and a fantastic iOS debut for the team at Blue Wizard Digital.

While we are on the topic of killing…who doesn’t love a good murder mystery, especially when Sherlock Holmes is on the case. In Ink Spotters 1: The Art Of Detection, the game’s afoot as the reader tries to track down visual and textual clues to unlock the full mystery. Setup like a beautifully illustrated 50 page graphic novel, Ink Spotters takes a much different approach to an “interactive story” than most apps. The game’s author Sean Stewart explains it far better than I ever could in his recent blog post. Generally, when someone hears the term narrative fiction game, they, they (myself included) tend to think of the ‘choose your own adventure’ style games like studios like Tin Man Games and Inkle do so well. However, the team at Three Story House have taken a completely different approach in which the story is set, there are no branching narratives, you are not determining the story by making choices but instead, doing the detective work necessary to uncover the story that is already there. There is one, predetermined narrative and it is up to the reader to (much like Holmes and Watson) use both the literal and visual clues within the story to uncover and reveal it. I’d call it more of an ‘investigative’ story game. To do this one simply types in whatever words, names and/or places that stick out like clues in the narrative and these will, in-turn, reveal new connections and unlock other portions of the tale. Much like an investigation in real life, these unlocked segments are rarely sequential and things one learns now might help to clarify something that they may have previously encountered, but were not yet capable of understanding at the time, or they may provide the crumbs of information needed for some other narrative thread further down the road. As a result, as the player is doing your investigating, the story can feel a bit disjointed until it’s been fully and successfully unlocked, at which point it can then be read through in its entirety from start to finish in the proper order. The comic book style artwork in this app is absolutely stunning and the way you are invested in the story and uncovering more and more of it, works quite well and makes you actually think about and examine each and every line of dialog. I quite enjoyed this title and look forward to more Ink Spotter adventures in the future.

Finally, that brings us to Hidden Folks, a title which I first got a peek at at last year’s PAX East expo and now here we are a year later and this much-anticipated is finally now available. If you’ve ever played a Where’s Waldo puzzle, then you know how to play this game. However, unlike Where’s Waldo, which is static, the puzzles in Adriaan de Jongh’s creation are in a constant state of motion with rich, black and white illustrated scenes featuring hundreds of small little characters going about their daily lives, farming, working, driving and more. At the bottom of the screen is a small strip of the target people, animals and things which the player needs to find in the massive scene sprawled out in front of them. Tapping on one of these targets reveals a riddle, a clue to help the player find it. Then it’s time to pan and scroll through the image, pinching to zoom as necessary, tapping on the intended target when discovered. Tapping on other items in the scene causes often hilarious human-generated sound effects to play or some interaction with the scene, like opening tents, starting hay bale rolling and more. Oftentimes, the player needs to manipulate the scene in order to find one or more of the targets. In fact, Hidden Folks is at its absolute best and really shines and sets itself apart from other hidden object style games when you have to solve these interactive puzzle portions to find a n intended target. Even after finding all of the targets in a given scene I found myself compelled to stay and explore each location further just to uncover all of its littler interactive bits and charm. From its hand drawn art to its silly human-provided sound effects, the game is just so unique and adorable and was well worth the wait!

And that’ll do it for this week…

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