Ah, the Great App Store Pricing Debate. For years people have been arguing over the cost of mobile games. What constitutes “too much?” Where’s the line when it comes to free-to-play monetization techniques? Should developers have deep discounts and temporary giveaways? Should consumers simply expect everything to go on sale and wait accordingly?
The recent Dungeon Keeper debacle is a good example of this. Gamers and critics alike have railed against it for using various monetization techniques and associating itself with the classic PC strategy series, and many point to it as an unpleasant indication of where the video game industry (especially mobile) is headed. It’s an issue that’s almost as complicated as the initial Freemium vs. Premium debate; so let’s take a closer look at everything and try to make sense of it all.
Minecraft has been a full-blown phenomenon for quite some time now and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change anytime soon. Regardless of whether or not you’re a fan of the sandbox builder, it’s influence is undeniable. Lots of games have tried to replicate its success with varying degrees of success, but what’s interesting is just how different many of them turned out to be. Some are 2D, some are 3D. Some implement more structured gameplay like tower defense elements on top of all the user-defined construction mechanics. A few almost feel like a randomly generated Metroid. Heck, some even incorporate a ecent number of RPG elements.
Honestly, there’s been quite the creative crop of blocky sandbox games on iOS for a while now, and this year was no exception. So naturally we decided to put together a list of some of our favorites.
Minecraft – Pocket Edition was actually a little late to its own party on iOS. When it first arrived it fell far short of expectations, but just like the PC original it’s been steadily improving ever since. What was once a simple 3D block placement exercise has been fleshed out to include enemies, crafting, fishing, and more. Of course since the PC version has continued to grow the iOS port still hasn’t managed to catch up, but it’s made some really incredible strides.
It would be easy to take a look at Junk Jack X and dismiss it as nothing more than a 2D Minecraft, but nope. It’s actually a very well-made 2D adventure with a heavy emphasis on crafting, exploring, and combat. This sequel of sorts also managed to add multiplayer, animals that can be raised, clothing, character customization options, and a whole heck of a lot more. There are numerous planets to explore (and actual incentive to explore in the first place), and your inventory is tied to your character as opposed to the world so you can bring all your stuff with you while you travel.
Initially I expected The Blockheads to be nothing more than a 2D Minecraft (see a pattern emerging?), but oh my goodness I could not have been more wrong. Instead of a rehash minus a dimension, we have an incredibly unique take on sandbox crafting. One that hits all the right world exploring and building notes, while also incorporating sim-like elements as players guide their little Blockheads around the environment. What’s even more awesome is that they’ll continue to perform queued up actions even while the game is turned off! So even if you can only drop into a game for a few minutes it’s still possible to get quite a bit of stuff done.
Terraria was one of the first “It’s like Minecraft, but” games, and just like pretty much everything else on this list it’s definitely not that simple. It’s more of a massive randomly-generated adventure game. Complete with NPCs to buy items off of, rare loot drops, special bosses, dungeons, and more. And this iOS port is no slouch. Some concessions had to be made (because of the touch screen, of course), but it’s been adapted to the new platform quite well.
What’s interesting about Growtopia is that it’s designed to be an MMO of sorts, but with a crafting motif. Well, it’s actually “splicing” and not “crafting.” Players combine items to generate totally new ones, which are then grown from the ground. It’s a little weird and a little different, but you’ve got to admit it’s also pretty intriguing. Just be aware that, as it’s an online game, you’ll have to learn to live with the constant inclusion of other players.
I freaking loveBlock Fortress. It’s this compelling mix of random level generation, resource management, base-building, and wave defense that never fails to entertain. Materials earned from harvesting and fending off waves of enemies can be used to improve your arsenal and bolster your defenses, and there are quite a number of defensive options at your disposal in the first place so you’ll be busy for quite a while. The upgradable everything that players can tweak using resources saved up from their various playthroughs also sweeten the deal significantly.
It’s easy to look at mobile and see it as a wasteland for content; particularly with all the casual, free-to-play games, and especially the ones that seem to de-emphasize actual gameplay in favor of stronger monetization. That’s only if you’re not paying attention. Serious, core games – some even free-to-play – had a great year on iOS.
Oceanhorn was hyped for a good reason: it was beautiful and ambitious. That ambition didn’t entirely pay off in my opinion, but for the game to have succeeded financially is a huge step forward for gaming on mobile.
It also felt like the barriers between mobile and PC/console games started to blur a bit. Frozen Synapse, Mode 7′s highly acclaimed PC strategy game, landed on iPad at last. Limbo received an excellent port. Leviathan: Warships brought cross-platform online play – and the best trailer of the year. Space Hulk was not perfect, but it made for an exceptional transition.
But perhaps few did it as spectacularly as XCOM: Enemy Unknown. That game proved that it was possible to take a massive console and PC title – a fantastic modern take on one of the greatest strategy games of all time – and put it on mobile without losing any of the experience. Firaxis also absolutely stuck the landing with Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol and its Pacific Skies followup; original games that went to PC later.
Posted by Andrew Stevens on November 7th, 2013 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Pocket Gamer reports that 505 Games has updated Terraria by adding multiplayer co-op gameplay. Now up to four players can adventure together in co-op, or fight against one another in player-vs-player duels that include one vs one and team battles. Players can also drag items and easily drop them into the open world. Now grab a few buds and begin adventuring together!
The furor over two new iPhones and the release of iOS 7 may have passed, but that doesn’t stop the oncoming wave of new apps. If you want to know what’s worth your time and what’s not, just look to the expert app reviewers at 148Apps. And if you want more app reviews than you can shake a stick at, be sure to hit our Reviews Archive.
Big Brain Master is a pure puzzle game that tells a story whilst engaging the player in some enjoyable and challenging puzzles. A new and artful take on “mind” games, it’s simple and entertaining approach manages to keep players guessing without being too complex. The art style is highly detailed, with a nice, clean, and simple graphical outlook, and the puzzles are presented in an interesting format which gives it an interesting and refreshing feel whilst playing. Navigating the user interface is nice and straightforward, and the design layout is linear enough to not overcomplicate by looking too clunky or crowded. Each of the 250+ levels are divided up into seven puzzle styles that are each distinctive from the last. Although this might seem refreshing enough to most players, I personally feel that perhaps having less levels per style and more of a variety of puzzle styles would have made it slightly less repetitive, as after a while gameplay seemed to become a little tiresome and I felt like I was just repeating actions that had already become less of a challenge. –Lucy Ingram
NimbleBit has a clear formula with their bitizen-featuring simulation games, one that repeats with the third such title, Pocket Trains. They’re games that are fueled not so much by challenge, but by keeping the player interested in propelling the machine forward and not punishing them for playing the game – like so many other free-to-play simulations are wont to do. It’s why I find myself falling into the same pit with Pocket Trains where I check it regularly for weeks on end, the same as I did with Tiny Tower and Pocket Planes. This feels almost like a remix of Pocket Planes that’s been simplified a lot. Where that game had some complexity due to the free-form nature of air travel,Pocket Trains is forced to be simpler because of the fixed nature of rail lines. Only one train can own a segment between two cities, though of course multiple train lines can travel through cities on intersecting lines. The paths are thus largely pre-defined and there’s now no monetary cost for traveling to a city, only a fuel gauge that refills when a train is idling or when the player pays a couple bux to refill it. –Carter Dotson
Trouserheart is an ideal game for the mobile format. It’s the kind of thing that can be jumped into for five or ten minute sessions, while still actually achieving something in that short space of time. In the vein of games such as Diablo and Torchlight, Trouserheart is a hack-n-slasher that’s very simple to learn. Using a virtual d-pad and one sole button to attack with, it takes seconds to master. What takes a little longer is learning to dodge enemies by moving around them quickly. It’s still all pretty simple stuff, though. Vibrantly animated, Trouserheart also maintains a charming and humorous take on events, right down to the player’s quest to rescue one’s trousers. Yes, really. –Jennifer Allen
I’d admittedly never heard of the original Chainsaw Warrior tabletop game from the late 80s, but that’s probably due to a combination of me not being all that into board games back then and also being six years old. Regardless, the player-versus-game gore fest has made its way to iOS. And it is ridiculously awesome. Chainsaw Warrior is essentially every action movie in the 80s turned into a dice-rolling game. A dimensional rift has opened up, resulting in New York being overrun by horrible mutants and other monstrosities, with a shapeless dark being running the show. In about one hour’s time the rift will open further and swallow the entire city. So it’s up to the titular hero to wade through hordes of terrible monsters in a desperate attempt to reach the Darkness and put a stop to the otherworldly assault. They’ll have to fight through a deck of over 50 cards just to reach a second, which is the only place where the Darkness will appear. Dying happens a lot. –Rob Rich
Wombi Math is a cute and fun app that will encourage grade school children to work on their math skills. Set in a charming urban landscape, a brick wall is used as the backdrop for different math equations and their answers to be displayed – be it with the possible use of addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division. Tap on an equation as well as the matching answer to clear the board. I admire how simple it is for parents to adjust the math questions used for the abilities of a specific child as well as how the questions and answers are represented – be it in uniform block boxes or more colorful and sometimes geometric shapes. One can also scroll through a few related brick walls that include each function, whether mixed, addition, subtraction, or division – each with a nice, different use of color yet maintaining an intentionally sparse background, keeping the focus on the math. –Amy Solomon
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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:
Outdoor survival, nicely-rendered 2D graphs with whimsical monsters and… wait for it… zombies? People: Terraria is here! The gameplay takes familiar survival staples and rolls them into a fairly complex system involving manipulation, combination and strategy. The tutorial underlines the basic stuff quite well; the first grand explains how to use the left-set control to move on either direction, as well as how to jump, scale downward… and instinctive movements, like directing jumps in either aerial direction are logical. The tutorial goes on to walk through collection of materials, protection, creations and dangers. –Tre Lawrence
Porches. Lamborghinis McLarens. All infinitely cool, but I dare anyone to show me a guy who hasn’t wanted to rock a tank at least once. Go ahead. I’ll wait. For folks who can’t or won’t do a 4-year bid just to do some infantry driving, Tanktastic is a relatively safe alternative that brings team combat, tactics and good old speed of accurate firing to bear. Jumping into a random group battle mostly describes the gameplay in all its muscled glory. The task is dropped into a terrain with different types of structured obstacles, and several other manned tanks. It’s a shameless free for all that measures speed, accuracy and cunning. The controls are straightforward, and encourage quick movement and shooting; I felt most comfortable with dual thumb controls. –Tre Lawrence
Pivvot is nothing if not eye-catching. Its stark graphics and simple gameplay demand attention. But how does it play? Pivvot’s concept is as simple as it gets. You control a rotating circle that moves along a line. As you move along you’ll see obstacles you need to avoid, lest you crash into them and die. To do so you use very simple two finger controls that rotate your intrepid circle left or right. While this sounds like an incredibly simple concept, in practice it is extremely challenging. The game starts off simple with easily avoided obstacles such as spikes that only take up one side of the course, but quickly adds in much harder ones that require exact positioning, like lines of small walls that move constantly. –Allan Curtis
And finally, this week Pocket Gamer demystified iOS 7 controllers, picked out the perfect games to show off your new iPhone 5S, reviewed hot new App Store games like Boson X and Trouserheart, and showed off this week’s iOS games in video show What’s New? See it all in PG’s weekly wrap up.
At 148Apps, we help you sort through the great ocean of apps to find the ones we think you’ll like and the ones you’ll need. Our top picks become Editor’s Choice, our stamp of approval for apps with that little extra something special. Want to see what we’ve been up to this week? Take a look below for a sampling of our latest reviews. And if you want more, be sure to hit our Reviews Archive.
868-HACK is the latest game from indie developer Michael Brough, who primarily works in a glitch-inspired pixel art style, making intelligent games that are his unique interpretations of certain genres. 868-HACK is a sort of take on ‘hacking’ in a roguelike fashion that’s somewhat similar to Zaga 33, and is actually referenced in the story text. The idea is that players must navigate 6×6 levels that represent computer nodes, with viruses and bugs that spawn at various times. The entire game is turn-based; with the player making a move, then all the enemies. Swiping is used to move in the cardinal directions, and to also attack an enemy that is in that cardinal direction. Attacking keeps an enemy from moving, but uses up a turn that could cause other enemies to move in and take out the player, whose health is represented by a smiley face. Three hits and it’s the end of the hacking session. –Carter Dotson
The native iOS calculator is missing two things: simplicity and elegance. Sumhold brings both of these things to the table and much more with its stylish calculator that really puts the current Apple one to shame. There aren’t any directions when Sumhold is first opened, but that’s because it doesn’t need them. Users are presented with a sleek calculator that features rounded buttons and a white and red color scheme. When it’s time to calculate, just tap on the buttons and Sumhold gets to work. What’s great is that it keeps track of long calculations on one easy-to-read line. The running total shows so there’s no need for confusing buttons that ultimately lead to frustration. Math equations that are no longer needed can be deleted by tapping on the little “x” in the corner. –Angela LaFollette
Terraria finally brings the preeminent 2D take on Minecraft to mobile. While other games have taken this perspective on mobile (Junk Jack, which released a sequel the same day as this release, and the excellent The Blockheads), Terraria brings to the table a feel closer to RPGs and to Metroidvania-style adventures. Yes there’s plenty of crafting and mining, and the basic language of the genre is well-represented here. There’s the need to mine materials and chop down trees to build better items and safe shelters among the vast, unknown world. But there’s also some more specific adventures to be had. There are deadly enemies, including some challenging bosses, to be taken on in Terraria. Finding them and being ready for them is the challenge. Plus, with randomly-generated worlds there’s no real way to know what’s next. –Carter Dotson
Sago Mini Doodlecast is a universal app that I have wanted to review for a few weeks now but needed a time for my busy son and I to test it together. Unlike other applications my boy has enjoyed helping me with, where a positive reaction consists of my son taking the iPad and insisting on the chance to explore without distraction, Sago Mini Doodlecast is a creative, open-ended drawing app that family members and friends will be delighted to share. This is a new app by the developers at Sago Sago, the dream team made up of developers of Toca Boca and zinc Roe, who have joined forces to develop Sago Mini apps for toddlers and the preschool set. Sago Mini Doodlecast is based on an earlier app with a related name, Doodlecast for Kids, now updated with the familiar zinc Roe and Sago Sago characters seen throughout this series of applications. –Amy Solomon
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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:
Samurai Shodown 2 comes with a wee bit of sticker shock: $8.99 for a port of a decades-old fighting game? Well, it kind of makes sense: It’s a Neo-Geo fighting game, and hey, the Neo-Geo was known for its very expensive games. But considering that the platform also had games with some of the finest 2D animation around, it was at least moderately justified. So, let’s work on the operating theory that if it’s deserving, Samurai Shodown 2 is worth $8.99, disregarding that even premium content for mobile rarely gets above $6.99. Well, I don’t think it is. The port job is just too poor to recommend it, especially at this price point. –Carter Dotson
Cryptic Cosmos is a small, tight quest, set in an outlandish base, far in the dark reaches of space. Main Hero is a bounty hunter, whose target is hiding out somewhere in the base, with the game’s main goal being finding it out and disposing of it. Although the story isn’t as convoluted and original as it could be, it’s a nice setup for a space adventure, and serves well enough as the game’s background. Although one of my main concerns about the game was initially its relative shortness, I now think that it’s just long enough. It has enough content, without sinking into repeat or artificially stretching its gameplay. While it is short, it’s long enough to give a good deal of interesting puzzles. Shortness of the game is likely because of an in-game walkthrough, which is a brilliant move in itself, so there’s no need to sweep through all of the previously unlocked locations, searching for the bit that was previously skipped. –Tony Kuzmin
Chuck’s Challenge 3D, from Niffler Ltd., makes it easy to like it. In this puzzle caper, Woop, a curiously toothed purple alien serves as our cocky protagonist. Apparently, Woop likes a challenge, and in a bit of clever development, he gets to interact with gaming icon Chuck Sommerville and get all sorts of solvable riddles to test his powers of deductions. The playing area is usually a grid made up of a surface of cubes; on those cubes was a rally point of sorts, and the simplistic goal is to get our guy from the start point to the end point, which signifies the successful end of the attempt. Movement is effected by a virtual joystick that controls movement one square at a time. –Tre Lawrence
Mobile gamers don’t have to wait much longer as the popular action-adventure title Terraria is set to release this week on iOS. Get ready to discover many unique environments while facing over a hundred enemies, magical creatures, and extremely evil bosses. The game supports leaderboards, achievements, and Facebook integration so that you can always share what’s going on with your great adventure!
Are you getting excited to dig, fight, explore, and build? I am!
Terraria, the breakout PC and Xbox 360 game from Andrew Spinks, is a 2D side-scrolling retro-pixel game that takes a ton of inspiration from Minecraft, with a fan following almost as big.
If you’ve played the console or PC version, you’ll recognize the iOS version immediately. It will be a universal app, and the dev team wants to add Game Center and iCloud support to allow you to play across the devices seamlessly. They also hope to add local Wi-Fi multiplayer support in a post-launch update.