It was a nice week of new releases, with the return of familiar franchises, iOS ports, and several fun new experiences.

We kick things off with the latest publishing effort from Noodlecake Studios. Developed by Hiding Spot Games, Flipping Legend is a tactical, endless RPG runner of sorts where players move along a seemingly infinite, three-columned checkerboard, trap and enemy laden playing field. The twist is that your character can only move forward diagonally (but can go through one side of the screen to the other). Players do also have the ability to move straight backward one square, but this is limited by a recharging meter. Planning several moves ahead is the key to survival as a health is constantly depleting and enemies must be taken out (ideally in rapid succession) to build up combos and recharge health. There are eight different unlockable and upgradable characters to choose from, each with their own costumes, special attacks and skills. The game uses a low-res pixel art style that gives it an almost retro Atari 2600 feel. Overall it is a fun little time waster that feels more strategic than a typical endless runner game. The upgrade system and the fact that each character levels independently and that each offers a unique set of skills, means it’s got some nice replayability. Flipping Legend is free with ads and IAPs are fairly easy to ignore.

Taking a slightly different approach for their latest fowl flinging effort, Rovio has taken Angry Birds Evolution out of soft launch and released it worldwide. Evolution employs that RPG marble ricocheting style gameplay that we have previously seen in titles like Wargaming’s Smash Squad and last week’s Flick Heroes. Players can “hatch, collect, and evolve over a hundred all new Angry Birds characters” to form teams of birds which you can use to knock, crash and smash the pigs off of Bird Island. The basic gameplay involves triggering the birds on the team one at a time, sending them flying into the arena to deal as much damage to the pigs as possible. For each turn the player takes, the counters on the individual pigs decrement until it’s their turn to attack and deal damage to your birds. The goal is to wipe out all of the pigs before they can wipe out all of the birds. The different species of birds have different attack styles and birds can be triggered in any order, allowing for a bit of strategy in attacks. Aside from the single-player campaign, players can battle one another online in the Oinktagon. Unfortunately you’ll need to do a fair bit of grinding to unlock additional bird types and upgrade existing birds. There is also an absolutely ridiculous (optional) $25 a month subscription service which “grants subscribers exclusive benefits every month”. Spending $300 a year on an Angry Birds mobile game seems absurd to me, but I’m sure there are some Rovio whales out there that will go for this. I honestly don’t know how long I’ll stick with this one, but at least the birds are branching out and trying new things.

Toca Boca is back this week with, Toca Lab: Plants. The app follows a similar formula as Toca Lab: Elements, which Toca Boca released at the end of 2013. However, instead of experimenting with 118 of the elements from the periodic table, this time around, kids get to “experiment with plant characters, evolve them into new species and discover their unique personalities”. Your budding botanist’s curiosity will be piqued as they clone their plants and then perform tests on them, using the Grow Light to see how light effects various species of plants, check if they need a little or a lot of water to thrive, figure out the best diet at the Nutrition station and even crossbreed them to see what new species of plants can be discovered. If your kids are anything like mine, then there will be lots of giggles and gasps as they delight in their scientific breakthroughs in their attempt to classify all 35 of the different possible species of plants. If your child was a fan of Elements, (I know mine were) I suspect they’ll enjoy this adorable Toca Lab: Plants app as well.

forma.8 GO is an iOS port of Mixedbag’s atmospheric Metroidvania-style action-adventure exploration game, forma.8, which was previously released on other platforms in February of this year. After a cut scene which sets the story, players are dropped right into the action, without much in the way of instruction. They must guide the protagonist, a small exploration probe which has been stranded alone on the surface of an alien planet. The little probe has been separated from his companions and he must find and recover a lost, powerful energy source before it’s too late. Dragging a finger on the virtual stick on the left side of the screen to guides the probe around the vast, cavernous landscape of the planet. Avoid its dangerous inhabitants and collect a variety of objects, some of which bestow new abilities on the little forma.8 probe. The game’s minimalist vector graphical style, automatically zooming camera and soundtrack complement each other nicely to form the perfect ambiance for this mysterious planet and gives the game a unique indie feel. At times I found myself lost in forma.8’s massive open world, which is both a strength and a weakness as you can sometimes feel a bit overwhelmed or confused as to where to go or what to do next. Then again, this certainly helps to put the player in the mindset of the main character. The game is currently available at a special launch price of 35% off for a limited time and I feel like there are quite a few hours of gameplay in it; after over 90 mins of play I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface.

One of the biggest surprises of the week for me was Mr Future Ninja, a paid, stealth puzzle/platformer from prolific free-to-play publisher Appsolute Games. Set in a futuristic skyscraper, players take on the role of one or more ninjas, attempting to take down the evil corporation who abducted their clan. There are a total of three different colored ninjas, each with their own unique abilities. The pink one can fire projectiles, the blue one can teleport and the orange can put certain types of enemy robots to sleep for a period of time. The goal is to navigate ornate levels to find the portal. There will be gates, cliffs, lasers, enemies and other obstacles in the way and the key is to be quite and stealthy and avoid detection. Each ninja may be moved independently or group two or all three of them together when more than one needs to travel to the same place. The virtual controls are nice and smooth and the graphics are nice and vibrant, perfectly crafting a neon-infused techno-punk future. There are loads of checkpoints to recover from so you never have to start levels completely over should one of the ninjas perish. Mr Future Ninja offers an excellent mix of stealth and puzzle as you use the skills of each of the ninjas to carefully navigate each level. The only aspect that keeps me from whole-heatedly recommending this game is that it is just too short (perhaps in part due to the plethora of checkpoints). Just when things really start ramping up, you abruptly come to the end of the 19 included levels. I wish the game were two to three times longer than it was, especially at a $3.99 price tag. Hopefully Appsolute will update the game with more levels in the future, as I would love to spend some more time is this world.

Perhaps the most notable new release this week has to be FRAMED 2. This is the highly anticipated sequel to Loveshack’s innovative, award-winning 2014 noir story-rearranging puzzle game FRAMED. A very worthy sequel, everything just feels a little more polished and the puzzles seem more challenging than the original. For those who might be unfamiliar with the concept, FRAMED 2 is a noir puzzle game in which the player must re-arrange the panels of an animated comic book, in order to change the outcome of the story. The player is a thief trying to avoid detection by the police and only a safe/correct outcome will allow the story to progress, otherwise the player must keep retrying until they get it right. In addition to re-ordering, rotating and reusing the story tiles, the sequel introduces a few new mechanics and some of the puzzles are quite challenging, especially those that require you to keep reusing story elements. When reusing titles, oftentimes each time through a single panel, the elements of the scene will change, requiring you to reevaluate the direction the cops are looking or what/if any a safe path through that panel will be. You do not need to have played the original to fully enjoy FRAMED 2, but of course fans of the first one will certainly delight in a second helping of this crafty puzzle game. This is a must-have title for sure.

Last, but certainly not least, that brings us to
Dry Cactus’ mobile gaming debut. Previously released on Steam about a year ago, Poly Bridge is beautifully stylized bridge construction physics-based puzzle game, in which players attempt to build all sorts bridges ranging from simple light car bridges to multi-deck draw-bridges and see how they stand up under vehicle traffic. As players make their way through the game’s fairly extensive campaign, they are introduced not only to a wide variety of building materials, but a number of bridge types as well from suspension bridges to drawbridges. The developers have done a nice job of introducing new concepts through detailed tutorials at the start of the game, which gets players familiar with the physics and properties of the different materials and gives them the basics of how to build a bridge. The goal is to construct a bridge within a certain budget and then have it stay erect and within a certain max stress level while vehicles or whatever pass over it. Over the years I’ve played quite a few bridge building mobile games and I was impressed with the layout of the controls and the tool set provided in Poly Bridge. While at times it is easy to see glimpses of the PC roots for these, they are quite functional and intuitive when using touch to construct, deconstruct and test your structures. The art style is whimsical and fun and I think that newcomers and fans of the bridge-building genre alike, will quickly find themselves engrossed in this game. Well done.

That’s all I have for you this week…enjoy.

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