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Apps Are Us
How do you know what apps are worth your time and money? Just look to the review team at 148Apps. We sort through the chaos and find the apps you're looking for. The ones we love become Editor’s Choice, standing out above the many good apps and games with something just a little bit more to offer. Take a look at what we've been up to this week, and find even more in our Reviews Archive.
Block Legend is a colorful, whimsical matching game that has a quest structure and fantasy trappings to make it feel like an RPG/puzzle game hybrid. Adding some more persistence and gameplay layers has generally worked successfully to make simple games feel more substantial, and the same is true here. Block Legend isn’t some kind of epic, sprawling adventure, but it isn’t trying to be. Instead, the game is a solid puzzle game that adds to its basic mechanics just enough to make it feel more meaningful without feeling overwhelming. --Campbell Bird
Frontline Commando 2 represents some of what’s good and bad about free-to-play. It’s an actual game; one with a mobile-friendly design and actual gameplay. However, it will want money to play at a high level, and it is unashamed of it. Thankfully this cover-based shooter from Glu is an actual game, not just an automated simulation of a game as many free-to-play games are wont to do nowadays. While it’s simplified from other cover shooters, players still have to aim and fire, and move to new cover by tapping the arrows on screen when grenades and rockets come in. This simplification works for mobile though, and the controls work pretty well – even the aiming. There is some automation in the squadmates, but this actually works for the player’s advantage: in the heat of battle, I want them taking care of their own stuff without me saying anything. The whole package does a great job of making hectic action fun and manageable, and is consumable in short bursts. --Carter Dotson
MailDeck is an extremely convenient email client for the iPad. Both stylish to look at and practical to use, it’s the kind of app that will quickly establish its place as a core tool for any regular email user. Much of this is thanks to its relative simplicity. While it offers a bunch of more complicated things, MailDeck also really doesn’t take long to set up. Entering a few basic password and username details invariably gets things going with the option to color-code the account for future reference and convenience. For common setups such as Gmail addresses, MailDeck detects what to do and does the more complicated stuff such as entering server details. Then it’s just a matter of waiting for the emails to come through which is mostly dependent on how hefty one’s inbox is. --Jennifer Allen
There is one particularly influential game that has gone entirely underrepresented on iOS: Spelunky. While Devious Dungeon isn’t exactly that, it does come from that family of procedurally-generated action platformers, this one in particular may seem like a mobile version of Rogue Legacy. But while its inspirations may be clear, Devious Dungeon misses out on why those games were so good – being only mindless entertainment to tune out to. --Carter Dotson
Endless runner games are a dime-a-dozen these days, running the gamut from highly addictive to boringly derivative. Smash Hit definitely leans toward the former of these rather than the latter with its fresh take on the popular genre. The basic premise of Smash Hit is to progress through an “otherworldly dimension” of structures, obstacles, and barriers while throwing metal balls at anything made out of glass – and players will find lots of glass to smash! Hitting crystals rewards players with more balls, which will be sorely needed to continue to progress farther and farther through the glass-filled world. Hitting 10 or more crystals in a row awards players with multiballs, which allows them to throw two, three, or more balls at a time for the price of one. Players have to keep track of how many balls are left and try to accumulate as many as possible along the way, because the game ends when the last ball is thrown. --Charlie Miller
While the advent of digital comics has made the medium more accessible and affordable than ever before, it can still be a daunting task to know where to begin. Uncanny Comics is a Newsstand app that hopes to be the new go-to monthly guide for comic book fans and new readers alike. From the most critically-acclaimed new series, to exclusive interviews with the artists and writers, to the absolute classics, it’s all here and presented in a clear, concise, and entertaining way. Rather helpfully, the makers have included direct links on each page to the Comixology or Marvel stores, taking readers straight to the right place to purchase their comics. Right now navigation is restricted to the website only, though hopefully in the future it will redirect readers to the pre-installed apps. --Lee Hamlet
Fans of storytelling and animation should take notice of the app Pillowcapers: A Sleepy Adventure – an interactive storybook that is superlative in every way. This is the story of Sam, who recently had a birthday and received the sole present of a striped pillowcase. Little did he know that this pillowcase would be the key to his new life as a superhero where, when using the case as a cape, he will try to save the world; or at least his neighborhood. I actually find this app hard to write about because it simply needs to be seen. No words committed to the screen will do this justice as the colorful, stylized app includes simply wondrous animation that fully explores Sam’s transformation to superhero and fighting giant robots to save his community. This app is part amusing procedural as it walks one through the costumes and other preparations needed for hero-dom. The pillow triggers a secrete trap door where Sam, transforming into his new uniform, is led to an area where he receives his crime-fighting orders from a unique book, thus beginning his epic adventure. --Amy Solomon
Other 148Apps Network Sites
If you are looking for the best reviews of Android apps, just head right over to AndroidRundown. Here are just some of the reviews served up this week:
There isn’t a roguelike quite like Out There. A space simulation game where players find themselves adrift in space, scrounging for materials from planet to planet, solar system to solar system, trying to find their way home. Essentially, the game is turn-based. Players start out in a solar system, and can explore planets of two kinds: ones they can land on with materials they can mine for, or gas giants which can be probed for fuel. Each move uses up fuel, oxygen, or damages the hull, and players need to find the materials to refill and repair as necessary. Materials can be mined for that can build new parts and repair current ones. --Carter Dotson
Tilt to Live 2: Redonkulous is the long-overdue launch on Android of One Man Left’s tilt-based arena survival series. Yes, one might say, “aren’t tilt controls the hottest control scheme of 2009?” Sure, but Tilt to Live has some of the best around: they’re precise while thriving on the chaos of actually tilting a device around. With plenty of options for customizing the tilt sensitivity and how one holds the device, this will make a believer out of the tilt control apostates. --Carter Dotson
The best thing about Deadman’s Cross is that it takes a complete left turn from the standard card game RPG by adding in varied gaming styles that have never before been seen together. The basic idea in Deadman’s Cross is that the world has ended and the few survivors left after the zombie apocalypse use teams of zombies, known as deadmen, to defend themselves. These deadmen need to be hunted down to be added to the army and taken care of to grow in strength. This boils down to a very familiar deck like interface in which each zombie the player owns is a card. The standard options for boosting a cards strength by absorbing other cards are there and at certain levels cards can be fused together to create stronger versions. --Allan Curtis
And finally, this week our pals across the pond at Pocket Gamer pretended to be doctors in Surgeon Simulator, nuked the world in First Strike, and saved baby Mario in Yoshi's New Island. All that, plus banned iOS games, free-to-play Crazy Taxi, and more right here.
We're working together with the team at Free App Alliance to highlight a great free app for you to check out everyday.
You're a humble lumberjack. A ruddy thieving wild boar has stolen your butty-filled lunchbox and your favourite axe. Your aim is to get them back. How? By pursuing the unscrupulous swine across six uniquely themed environments.
There are 36 different action-packed levels to work your way through in this Super Mario Bros-esque platformer - all of which feature plenty of dangerous drops, perilous pits, and bestial baddies.
Luckily, you can throw acorns at any foes that cross your path. An Uzi would have been more useful, but beggars can't be choosers. Or so we're told.
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Nintendo recently reported its first annual loss, showing that perhaps 3DS isn’t enough of a success. Nintendo hasn’t even released its legacy games on mobile platforms where others like Sega have (Sonic the Hedgehog). While current CEO of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata, is in charge, it’s unlikely that Nintendo will acknowledge its mistake. When asked about releasing Nintendo games for smartphones, Iwata replied, “This is absolutely not under consideration. If we did this, Nintendo would cease to be Nintendo....”
But what about rereleasing classics on iOS? That doesn't seem to conflict with Iwata's unflinching desire to keep Nintendo from making easy money. Let's take a look at some numbers to estimate those releases.
The following data about Nintendo platforms and games are from VGChartz.
- The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) sold 500.01 million units globally.
- Super Mario Bros. sold 40.24 million units.
- The original Game Boy sold 501.11 million units.
- Pokemon (including the Red, Green, Blue, and Yellow versions) sold 46.01 million units.
Now let’s look at some iOS comparisons.
- Apple has recently updated the lifetime sales number for iOS devices at 365 million units, 67 million of which are iPads.
- Recent success Draw Something was downloaded over 50 million times in the first 50 days of being released.
Downloads of some popular iOS games, like Angry Birds, Draw Something, and more, have overtaken lifetime sales of the most popular NES and Gameboy games despite less of the originating devices existing. iOS users are willing to pay for the games that they want.
8% of NES users owned Super Mario Bros. (40.24 million copies of the game out of 500.01 million users). If only 4% of iOS users purchases a Super Mario Bros. port to iOS, half of the NES sales units for the game, Nintendo could potentially make $14M in profits. That assumes the game is sold at $0.99. But who honestly wouldn't pay up to $5 to play Super Mario Bros. (or Zelda titles) on the iPhone or iPad?
What about Game Boy games? Just a few months ago, Pokemon Yellow appeared on the App Store for a weekend. The app was not Pokemon Yellow. The game didn’t work. And despite over 1000 one-star reviews, people continued to download it. The game reached #3 in the Top Paid Apps on the App Store in an incredibly short time. The original Pokemon titles sold even more than Super Mario Bros.. It also may be more profitable considering it would be a great candidate for an in-app purchase scheme (in-game currency, collectable digital items and Pokemon, etc).
There are plenty of Zelda and Mario-like games on the App Store, but a game that truly mimics the experience and gameplay of Pokemon has yet to be accomplished. But one may be coming out soon. Stephen McVicker and Calisprojects are developing an ambitious, Pokemon-like game called ZENFORMS that's slated to be released in June.
Even if Nintendo releases Pokemon after ZENFORMS is released, it isn’t going to cut into Nintendo’s sales. But it’s unusual that Nintendo is refusing fans old games that would cost Nintendo nearly nothing to release. There’s a demand out there for Nintendo-style classics and Nintendo is losing out.