When tragedy strikes, depression hits and you start to go into autopilot. It's the only way we can cope with hard times, and these times are quite hard. Thankfully nobody I know is dead, hurt, wounded in the line of fire, or probably even hungry at this hour, but a good friend of mine has left me for four years. That good friend is the Winter Olympics.
Now that there is no speed skating, downhill skiing, hockey, or even curling on MSNBC, I'm completely reliant on apps to run my life. Last night I used Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock so I could at least be woken up gently. Unfortunately I set it up to only let me sleep for 5 hours, but I was awake… sort of. I was having awful dreams of Lindsay Vonn crashing, Bode Miller cutting flags, and Canada winning the hockey gold medal, but I guess my sleeping patterns looked pretty decent for a short nights sleep. How would I know though, I'm no doctor.
Eating is the toughest part of being so down in the dumps. Some people are emotional eaters, some people starve themselves, I just want to eat something expensive. It's true that being sad isn't conducive to my budget, but man do I eat well. I reviewed OpenTable last night because it is really the best app for my current needs. I could use Zagat To Go to find a more professional review, and I may in fact use it still, but OpenTable not only shows me where to go, it also reserves me a table.
This week's only news story also has the sign of the apocalypse and the apps of the week built in - handy, eh? Over a 24 hour period, 453 new games were released! What happened Apple, did someone finally wake up? This is a great disservice to developers, as it's exceedingly hard for an app to get noticed when so many other good games are released on the same day. Sure, developers can set release dates, but if they do, their app is placed on the latest releases section in iTunes according to approval date not publication date, therefore burying it beneath the first page and limiting valuable exposure. Please fix this, Apple! Anyway, enough ranting, here are some of the most notable releases this week. We'll try to have reviews for as many as we can in due time, but until then, here's a quick rundown:
Hybrid: Eternal Whisper
Gamevil's action-RPG follow-up to Zenonia certainly has great aesthetics and a nice online component, but for me so far, the story has been too intrusive and the gameplay mediocre. At $5.99, you may want to wait for our review. Upon playing more, the gameplay has proven more fun and the story's role is minimized. Recommended!
Zach Gage's first iPhone game is a very stylish Tetris variant with OpenFeint integration. Instead of blocks falling from from the top, the fall into the middle from both the left and the right, where you have to manipulate them using multi-touch controls. Match four or more of the same color to clear blocks. The game starts out slow with only black and white, but quickly becomes challenging with the addition of more colors and faster scrolling. From my time with the game, I can say it's one of the more fun puzzle games on the App Store.
This beautiful flight sim had our editor Chris in a frenzy before its release. From initial impressions, it seems the game delivers on the hype, but if you don't want to shell out the $2.99 now, Chris will have a review up very soon.
Aves Aves contains some truly magnificent animations and entrancing binaural audio, but with its simplistic gameplay, it plays more like a tech demo. Still, if you want to see some really cool technology, it's worth the $.99 price of admission, and I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for Ghost LLC's future projects.
Above and Beyond Air Combat
Young developer Josh Rosen's followup to SciFly is a totally different beast. It's still an arcade plane flying game, but it shines with OpenFeint integration, a huge level of customization, open-world gameplay, and shiny graphics. In any normal week, this would easily earn the app of the week award.
Robocalypse - Mobile Mayhem
Robocalypse is a humorous and strong entry into the RTS genre, which is relatively weak on the App Store. Featuring a lengthy campaign and full online multiplayer, Robocalypse is a safe bet for RTS fans.
Alley Gator is Glu's entry into the quick $.99 games category with accelerometer-based gameplay.
From the guys who made Sparta comes a port of an addictive online flash game.
Against the Fire!
Meridian's followup to their smash hit Alive 4 Ever is a similar survival shooter but with theme of a fireman putting out water monsters.
Dungeon Hunter (pulled from the App Store)
Otherwise known as Gameloft's Diablo clone, Dungeon Hunter was said to be very impressive, but was unfortunately pulled due to a bug in the game. The game should be available for download again soon.
Castle Warriors is another nice addition to the RTS genre on the App Store. The gameplay is similar to Galcon and the graphics are very nice overall.
Super Shock Football
After App Store giants Gameloft and EA turned out full football sims, you would expect Chillingo, publisher extraordinaire to follow up with one of their own, right? Instead, developer Steamroller studios has produced a light-hearted throw back to vintage vibrating football games that is ultimately more suited to the iPhone than either Madden or NFL 2010.
This Chillingo "shmup" is very stylish but adds little to the genre gameplay-wise.
Scarecrow is Ezone's take on Doodle Jump and also the latest 3rd party game to incorporate ngmoco's plus+ network.
Apps of the Week
iBlast Moki is the best puzzle game on the iPhone, period. This physics-based puzzle game contains challenging gameplay. The goal is to, using bombs and eventually other elements like balloons, get all of the mokis to the exit of the level. It sounds simple, but some of the levels are head-scratchingly devious. There is almost unlimited replay value with over 70 levels, Plus+ integration, and a full-featured level editor/sharer.
By the same token, Meteor Blitz is the best top-down space shooter for the iPhone, surpassing even the famed Isotope. The dual-stick control scheme is incredibly fast and responsive, the graphics are simply stunning, and the gameplay is livened up by the inclusion of RPG elements and many different weapons. The game also features superlative pause and auto-save functions.
Wow, so many great games, and I'm sure I'm missing a few. Of course, I won't expect any good game releases for the next month couple with reports of month-long approval times.
Gameloft's two most recent premium games, Gangstar and Modern Combat: Sandstorm (supposedly due for imminent release) are both priced at $6.99. These are certainly at the highest quality level of the App Store, so normally Gameloft would price these at $9.99. Gameloft has stated, however, that they have priced their games lower because consumers are unwilling to pay $9.99. While Gameloft is probably doing this with their best interests at heart, it could have unintended consequences for developers of AAA titles everywhere. If new Gameloft games are debuting at $6.99, other developers will be pressured to price their premium apps accordingly. While this may be good for the consumer in the short run, it could lead to deflation of app values and discourage premium game production, as you will have to sell a lot more units at $6.99 than at $9.99 to turn the same profit. It seems the guys behind Real Racing, Firemint, are the only ones with enough cojones to steadily price their game at $9.99, and (I think) it's paying off.
Geared takes over number one app spot
To my joy, a game app has finally taken, from Camera Genius (boring), the number one overall paid app spot. Chris found Geared to be a nice little game in his review, and while not to say that it isn't deserving of the number one spot, the App Store still works in mysterious ways to me. This is a game that had no hype, no big name developer or publisher, and that isn't at all the best game on the App Store, even at its price point. Perhaps a well-done lite version is the answer? In any case, congratulations to Bryan Mitchell; good work!
This week's sign of the apocalypse
This week, we know the apocalypse is coming because... there is no app of the week. It seems that since at least March, each week has brought at least one AAA title, but this past week has been something of an oddity. We saw some games that are decently fun (Geared, Ramp Champ, and Alive 4 Ever), but in the end, I decided nothing was App of the Week quality. Rather than besmirch the MMAHQ name with some mediocre apps, I sadly leave this week blank. However, I reserve the right to update this column in the middle of the week if some stellar apps make their way to the app store (Hint - think Sandstorm).
Well folks, that's it for this week. Have a great week, and hopefully app-wise, it will be more interesting than the last.
[caption id="attachment_15283" align="alignleft" width="200" caption="Minigore = Mini content"]
[/caption]Minigore, a dual-stick survival shooter, has finally been released onto the App Store after weeks of intense hype and anticipation. So what was all the hype about? Honestly, I don't know. Compared with its survival shooter kin, iDracula (App Info), Minigore is as shallow as a puddle. It has one map, two weapons, four enemy types, and two health points. It definitely has a unique art style going for it, but beyond that, not too much. There seems to be some sort of story, and while it is never even touched on, there will apparently be Pocket God-style episodic updates. I'm sorry, but I don't like this approach unless it's done with a complete game. Minigore is clearly not a complete game, and I'm tired of getting incomplete games with promises of updates that aren't always fulfilled. There seems to be a bit of a logjam cycle going on with apps nowadays - developers won't add to their apps unless they do well in the App Store, but consumers don't want to pay for an incomplete app. But hey, it worked for Pocket God (App Info); it went from being a boring, mindless, stupid time waster to a... boring, mindless, stupid time waster. But seriously, Minigore is not a bad game, just an average one that without a bevy of substantial updates is undeserving of the immense hype that preceding it.
Freeverse joins ngmoco's Plus+ network
As I touched on last week, there is an emerging social game network competition on the App Store. And, as I loosely predicted (thank you, thank you), ngmoco's Plus+ network has taken the lead. Freeverse, who may not be my favorite developer but is certainly among the most popular and has a large volume of games, has announced that they will be implementing the Plus+ network in their upcoming action space trader Warpgate, their incredibly popular Flick Fishing (App Info), and presumably more upcoming games. Having two of the premiere App Store developers certainly bolsters Plus+, and could induce a chain reaction of developers braking for Plus+. At this point, OpenFeint may be implemented in more games, but that catalog is very scattered, not all of those games are exactly quality controlled, and some apps were clearly not made for OpenFeint (have you ever tried to go into a Pocket God chat room?). I'm definitely putting my money on Plus+ for now.
From the developer of Trace - Gomi submitted
Bovine Dragon has finally submitted their new game, Gomi, to the App Store. Gomi appears to be a platforming game in which you, as a Gomi, replace the pollution in the world with trees and other natural things. The artwork is certainly unique, and the gameplay looks good, but perhaps the most impressive thing about Gomi is the staggering amount of content. Gomi will have over 140 stages, each lasting several minutes, spread across 8 worlds, with a boss battle for each world that unlocks a new ability. There are also 8 unique mini-games, hundreds of achievements, hundreds of playable Gomis, a complete soundtrack of 17 songs, and online scoreboards for everything. Wow, talk about a complete game! The developer estimates that playing through each stage once, without trying to unlock any achievements
or playing any mini-games, will take over 12 hours. The price for a game of this size? Reportedly just $1.99 upon release. This looks to be an incredible value and if the production values and unique gameplay of Trace (App Info) were any indication, Gomi should be an incredible game.
This week's sign of the apocalypse
[caption id="attachment_15285" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Locating sex offenders will be rendered pointless when the ENTIRE WORLD IS DESTROYED!"]
Offender Locator (App Info), an app that locates nearby sex offenders, is currently sitting at #4 overall in the App Store. First of all, are people really that paranoid? And second, if you do find an offender in your area, what are you going to do? Move away? Complain to your neighborhood police patrol? Set up barricades? No, you are just going to be more worried than you were before.
App of the week
So normally, I would list more than one app of the week, but this week, there is basically only one app deserving of the honor, only one game I have been playing all week:
[/caption]I have to admit, after seeing SIIG appear on the App Store, I was skeptical. After all, how fun can a remake of Space Invaders be? It might be fun, but for $4.99? I figured they just slapped some neon backgrounds on the old tried and true gameplay. Well, after reading the 148apps review, I decided to buy the game, and, happily, I was utterly, completely, and unequivocally wrong. TAITO brings a shining example of how to remake retro games for the App Store. The graphics are fantastic, the action is frantic and heart-pounding, the music is techno bliss, and the controls are perfect. The evolution concept and implementation is fantastic, with unlockables aplenty. And on top of all of this, there is the ridiculously awesome ability to generate completely original levels based on your iPod music. I really need some good songs for this mode, so if anyone has any suggestions, post away! This isn't just a great App Store shooter, this is a great shooter period. Probably in my top three iPhone games ever, and at $4.99, if you've ever enjoyed a shooter, you owe it to yourself to buy this game.
Wow, they actually let me write a second Monday Morning App HQ. Hopefully everyone is enjoying the column, and feel free to post feedback.