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Jordan Minor

Senior Writer with the 148Apps Network since August 19, 2011

Wordsmith. Northwestern Alum. Fan of video games. Fascinated with the internet.

Connect with Jordan via:
Twitter: @JordanWMinor
Email :: jordan.minor@148apps.com
Personal site :: http://www.JordansOB.blogspot.com
Pyro Pursuit Review

Pyro Pursuit Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Pyro Pursuit combines red-hot thrills with deliberately paced arcade action.

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Glint Review

Glint Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Despite being a puzzle game, Glint clearly values beauty over brains.

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With so many iOS games being so similar to each other, how can players know which is the best? “Who Wore it Best?,” the new video series from 148Apps writer Jordan Minor, is here to help answer those questions.

In this first episode, Gnarbike Trials, Bike Mayhem Mountain Racing, and MotoHeroz fight for physics-racing domination.

Pippa & Dips Review

Pippa & Dips Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Pippa & Dips' shadowy visuals can't mask its rough gameplay.

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Tornado Time Review

Tornado Time Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Even real tornadoes last longer than Tornado Time.

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After their smash debut, the Angry Birds have gone from physics-based puzzle games to space adventures to kart racers. Angry Birds Epic, the newest entry in the series currently in a soft launch phase, continues the franchise’s evolution into the Mario of mobile by casting the birds as heroes in a turn-based roleplaying game. We grind through this ambitious spin-off for the latest edition of It Came From Canada!

When the dastardly Prince Porky and the rest of his pig army steal innocent eggs, it’s up to a brave band of birds to stop him. Starting out with a lone red warrior bird, the player’s party soon sees new recruits like a yellow wizard and white healer. There’s no real overworld to explore in Angry Birds Epic. Instead, the party travels from battle to battle on a linear map, occasionally coming across treasure chests or resource deposits. The fights themselves play out like simplified, turn-based, JRPG battles in the vein of Paper Mario or the more recent South Park: The Stick of Truth, albeit without the cursing or focus on timed button presses.

The battles do have some depth, however. Using an intuitive touch system, each bird can either attack an enemy or use its special sub-skill. For example, the wizard’s lightning strike attack hits several foes at once. But it can also choose to create a lightning shield around itself or an ally that damages incoming foes. As the birds levels up, some skills can even be applied to the whole party.

ab epic 7Complimenting these strategies are the surprisingly complex skills of the enemy pigs. Some stronger pigs charge up attacks over time like meteor showers or taunts that cause all foes to target a specific vulnerable bird. Other enemies have more passive abilities like Prince Porky’s resistance to attacks above a certain damage level. When the red chili pepper at the bottom of the screen fills up, players can unleash a devastating special attack. However, it may be useless against bosses like Prince Porky or other shielded enemies so players still have to play smart.

These bite-sized battles make up the vast majority of the Angry Birds Epic experience, but there are a few things to do outside of combat. Players can forge stronger weapons, brew potions, and scrounge around for more loot. Aside from tackling the main campaign, players can also participate in daily dungeons and lottery spins for the chance to earn even more prizes. Partaking in these side activities strengthens the team and makes the story quest easier, but the fair yet steep difficulty curve definitely still feels designed to push players towards spending more money.

ab epic 3It’s hard to be too mad at the game though, because the world of Angry Birds Epic is so pleasing to take in. The colors are vibrant, the animation is exquisite, the music is joyfully rambunctious, and the whole presentation is so charming players will be reminded why so many people got hooked on this franchise to begin with. Like all things Angry Birds at this point, expect Angry Birds Epic to soar once it fully launches.

It Came From Canada: Dwarven Den

These days it’s super easy to be immediately cynical about freemium games on the App Store. Just the mere mention of energy systems or recharge times can cause players to roll their eyes. Considering Dwarven Den, the new game from Backflip Studios currently in a soft launch phase, is based entirely on these mechanics some might dismiss it out of principle. But the more open-minded will discover a shockingly fair dungeon exploration adventure. Get ready to dive deep in this edition of It Came From Canada!

dd 6In Dwarven Den players control a dwarf spelunker making his way through a series of caves. Each cave has a different objective, like find the lost dwarf or mine all of the gold, but efficient exploration is what everything ultimately comes down to. Pathways are blocked off by various types of rocks, and mining through them depletes the player’s energy. Run out of energy and either pay up or quit and wait for the dwarf to recharge. However, each cave is also littered with red gems that restore energy when mined. The tension comes from trying to make progress while keeping energy reserves high.

It would have been so easy for Dwarven Den to keep energy gems artificially scarce to encourage customers to pay. Fortunately, players can get through much of the game with intelligent play alone. By raiding treasure chests for loot, players can forge stronger weapons and armor. Rocks become easier to mine and sometimes even give back energy. By mining blue gems, players can also use a variety of Zelda-style tools like fog-clearing torches and rock-clearing bombs. Bombs are especially effective against energy-draining spider foes.

Using all of these tools in Dwarven Den‘s surprisingly non-linear dungeons makes for a satisfyingly cerebral experience. Each dungeon is basically a big environmental puzzle to solve, and there’s always more than one right answer. It’s not Dark Souls, but the combination of tense challenge and freedom for creative player experimentation works in a similar way. It avoids becoming the tedious loop of repeating an action, waiting, repeating the same action, and waiting again that it could have easily devolved into.

dd 7Things can get a little stressful, but that’s offset by Dwarven Dungeon‘s bright, chubby characters and cheery voice samples. The 3D visuals move smooth and fast. Meanwhile, each new item equipped shows up on the player character as a nice touch of customization.

There is the nagging fear though that Dwarven Den‘s freemium elements are so non-aggressive they might be too good to be true. Since the game is still in a soft launch phase, there’s still time for it to decide how money-hungry it wants to be. As it is now though, Dwarven Den rightly chooses to be a great game first and a cash magnet at a distant second.


Cat vs. Aliens Review

Cat vs. Aliens Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Space Invaders for the lolcat generation.

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Unstoppable Square Review

Unstoppable Square Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Nothing can stop this square, but slight gameplay slows it down.

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Team Paul Skiing Review

Team Paul Skiing Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Like most good inspirational sports sagas, Team Paul Skiing is based on a true story.

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Ninja Newton Review

Ninja Newton Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Ninja Newton brings surprising depth to its swinging arcade gameplay.

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Brave Guardians HD Review

Brave Guardians HD Review

iPad Only App - Designed for the iPad
Although it has a few gimmicks, Brave Guardians is a pretty typical tower defense game.

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Primal Flame Review

Primal Flame Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Primal Flame knows that it's better to burn out than fade away.

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Caveman Wars Review

Caveman Wars Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
For a game about such dumb people, Caveman Wars is surprisingly complex.

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Beyond Space Review

Beyond Space Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Beyond Space's gameplay is good, but its production values are out of this world.

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World of Gibbets Review

World of Gibbets Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Bright colors and clever puzzles do little to hide the pure heart of darkness in World of Gibbets.

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UHR-Warlords Review

iPad Only App - Designed for the iPad
The only thing wrong with UHR-Warlords' sublime strategic battles is that there aren't more of them.

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Letterarium Review

Letterarium Review

iPad Only App - Designed for the iPad
Letterarium's promising spelling mechanic is crippled by technical issues.

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Riot Runners Review

Riot Runners Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
This stylish, monochrome endless runner is like dark chocolate for the eyes.

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137 BC Review

137 BC Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
This is may not be Sparta, but it's still not bad.

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Merchants of the Sky Review

Merchants of the Sky Review

iPad Only App - Designed for the iPad
This airborne city building game stays aloft, but doesn't quite soar.

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Dungeon Highway Review

Dungeon Highway Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Despite using unoriginal sprites, Dungeon Highway's blend of 2D art in 3D space is still the most unique thing about it.

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Bike Mayhem Mountain Racing Review

Bike Mayhem Mountain Racing Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Gnarly bike crashes are way more fun when they happen to someone else in Bike Mayhem Mountain Racing.

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Street Punch Review

Street Punch Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Action and strategy gameplay make a great buddy cop team.

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Origin Review

Origin Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
This sleek puzzler is good, but never gets fully going.

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Perplexity Review

Perplexity Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
A neat, nouveau spin on the match-3 puzzler.

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Rocket ROBO Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Rocket ROBO's combination of whimsical graphics and impeccable gameplay is just stellar.

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Pocket Lab Review

Pocket Lab Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Pocket Lab's simple science makes for an enjoyable experiment.

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Unfolder Review

Unfolder Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Unfold this game to reveal a fun and fresh puzzle experience.

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Crazy Dogs Review

Crazy Dogs Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Talking dogs and big guns. It's a match made in heaven before the repetition sinks in.

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