148 Apps on Facebook 148 Apps on Twitter

Tag: Appvent Calender »

Daily Double: Plushed Character Design Contest, Beejive IM, and...it's Over?

Posted by Bonnie Eisenman on December 23rd, 2009
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarstar :: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED :: Read Review »

Yep, that's right, folks...the Appvent Calender has come to an end. iTunes Connect is closed for Christmas, presumably to help iTunes handle the influx of traffic, so developers can't change prices until the holiday is over. There won't be any more free games, at least not through the official Appvent Calender.

What the folks at Blacksmith games are offering, though, is a contest. You can go here to read the full details, but the main thing is that you have to create a sketch, design, or description of a unique Plushed character. The winner will receive a $200 iTunes gift card (USA only, sadly). That's a nice prize right there!

The developers will pick their top five choices on December 29th and show them on the Appvent Calender site. In true democratic style, "the people" will get to pick the winner. Not only will the winner receive that awesome gift card, but their character will be animated and added to the game as an enemy in the fifth level of Plushed!

A fitting end to the Appvent Calender? I think so. It's hard to believe how close it is to Christmas.

Don't forget that EA still has a massive 24 games on sale, and other developers are still running promotions, too. Here's one last sale from an awesome app to conclude our Daily Double:

Beejive IM
Those App Store veterans among you will recognize Beejive as the widely acknowledged leader in the field of IM apps. Even Apple selected it as one of 2009's best app in their "2009 Rewind" feature. Sporting push notifications, group chat, support for a wide array of IM services, and oodles of other features, Beejive has long set the premium standard. We gave Beejive a shining 5-star rating, and highly recommend it to any heavy chat users. It was worth it back at $15.99 and was still a deal at $9.99. Now, its current sale price of $5.99 is likely the lowest you'll see this premium app go. Make sure to read our review for a more in-depth look!

Merry Christmas and happy holidays and all that, folks. It's been a great season for iPhone freebies!

Daily Double: Sponge Dude...and EA Sales! Scrabble, Tetris, Madden, Rock Band, etc!

Posted by Bonnie Eisenman on December 22nd, 2009

Christmas is quickly approaching, and sadly, so is the end of many of these deals. But don't despair yet, because the sales just keep rolling in. Namco just kicked off their "winter sale" yesterday, and EA is back in the game, too!

At least this is a nice surprise from EA! EAMobile just sent out two tweets saying, "The following titles will be up to 50% off for the rest of the holiday season! Happy Holidays everyone! Boggle, Madden 10, NBA Live, Rock Band, Surviving High School, Wolfenstein RPG, American Idol, and more!"

"And more?" Shockingly, that "and more" includes the likes of Scrabble, Tetris, and Need for Speed: Shift. Mysteriously, some titles that were supposed to stay at $0.99 'til Christmas are now at higher prices (Auditorium is still on sale but now at $1.99), so don't trust that these sales will last...especially on the games not named in that tweet. Grab 'em while they're here and all that.

Today's Appvent Calender freebie, Sponge Dude, is a physics-based combination of puzzle and platformer. The main character is an elastic sponge, who is sadly missing his arms and legs—meaning that you need to help him reach the end of each level using different mechanics like bombs (open doors and propel the sponge) and balloons (for flying). It looks a bit crude, and certainly isn't on the level of previous offerings like MiniSquadron, but might be worth a look.

Phew...this article is getting pretty long. But one quick PSA: If you own an iPhone and have yet to experiment with a GPS app, you may want to give Copilot a try. Don't worry—this one isn't one of those $100+ apps; instead, it's normally priced at $35 and is on sale for a mere $19.99! Here's what founder Jeff Scott had to say whilst reviewing it in our September GPS round-up:

"CoPilot live is one of the newest contenders in the iPhone GPS arena. And I must admit that before the iPhone version I had never heard of them before. This could be why I was so pleasantly surprised by this GPS app. It’s fairly full featured, fast, and I think it’s my new favorite GPS app."

It's a newbie in the arena, sure, but given both its solid performance and its killer price, brand name doesn't matter all that much!

Daily Double: Doodle Golf + Bonus Freebies, Red Rocket Games Free For Holidays

Posted by Bonnie Eisenman on December 21st, 2009

While the Appvent Calender is merely offering us Doodle Golf today, we have loads more freebies to share, too. Darkroom Premium, The Deep Pinball, Orba, and all Red Rocket Games are also free today. This is certainly an amazing Christmas season. How many of you are running out of your 180 app slots?

Doodle Golf
Today's Appvent offering is uncannily similar to Invisible Links, a game we reviewed earlier this year....probably because it was made by the same company! Doodle Golf is a slightly easier, slightly simpler incarnation of the same concept, in which you draw lines to guide your golf ball through a doodled mini-golf course. The catch is that the courses are drawn with invisible ink...so you'll have to remember where the boundaries are! Invisible Links was a great game, though a challenging one, so Doodle Golf should definitely be worth a download. From the developer:

"Each course is designed with large enough pathways for you to navigate easily with you finger. Courses range from lego blocks to cobble stone pathways, under the sea creatures to doodles in the sky. Enjoy 50 courses and 4 difficulty levels that cater to any player’s skill. Can you collect all 50 gold medals?"

Now for our bonus freebies!

Darkroom Premium
Darkroom Premium features a number of nifty additions, such as a full-screen shutter button, a "steady mode" that won't snap a shot until the camera stops moving, and many more. Formerly known as "Steadycam Premium," it's an app that most iPhone users can surely find a use for. The free download for this one ends Christmas Eve!

The Deep Pinball
I'm not quite sure how the aquatic theme matches up with Christmas, but whatever. The Deep Pinball comes from the makers of Wild West Pinball, and features a solid pinball board with great graphics. The deep-sea theme has been updated to include Christmas-y touches like sharks in Santa hats. If you like pinball at all, there's no excuse not to give it a try on your favorite iDevice...especially at this price.

Oh, match-3 has taken such a beating in the App Store. While it's true that there are more than enough clones out there, if you've yet to acquire one, you might as well give Orba a spin. This "color matching, orb smashing" game is absolutely beautiful, and requires a bit more strategy than Bejeweled or similar games. Let's face it...there's a reason these games keep popping up, and that's because they're addicting. Add that to Orba's shiny, sophisticated graphics and you've got a home run.

Red Rocket Games
Developer Red Rocket Games has put all of their apps on sale for the holidays. Talk about sweet!

Little Runner
A doodle-based game in which you guide "Little Runner" through a veritable obstacle course, guarding his path as the little alien runs obliviously past perils. The goal, of course, is to keep him running for as long as possible. It's a fun concept, the art is silly, and it's easy to start playing.

Mr. HAND is a...strange...retro game. "So what is MR HAND?" the description asks. "Why, it's the original quirky retro-arcade 8-bit secret-agent flying-hand with a turbo-booster Rock Paper Scissors Game."

...confused? So am I, but you should probably try it out regardless, because the App Store reviews are glowing. It's fast, it's weird, it's silly, and by all accounts it's a lot of retro-styled fun.

MEVO & The Grooveriders
MEVO is a rhythm-based game that plays similarly to a Mario platformer...but with music. As Mevo travels through five different worlds, you tap along to the music in order to keep the flow going. It's kind of similar to a TapTap/Guitar Hero/Rock Band game, except transposed onto a 2D platformer. Pretty nifty, if you ask me.

Dark Harvest
Does Red Rocket make anything normal? Apparently not, and that's a good thing! Dark Harvest is a match-3 spinoff where you job is to "grow a vegetable army of DOOM." Intriguing, right? It's a match-3 in the style of Snood, so gameplay should be familiar to just about any player.

And that's it for our massive roundup of the day! Check back tomorrow for more freebies and sales...Christmas is almost upon us!

Daily Double: MiniSquadron (!!), Payload for Free

Posted by Bonnie Eisenman on December 20th, 2009

As usual, we have more than one free game on offer from the Appvent Calender. Though it's almost the end of our countdown to Christmas, the sales are still going strong, and it's clear that the calender has been a smashing success—and hopefully an event to be repeated next year!

Today's main offer is the absolutely fantastic MiniSquadron. I gave this 2D aerial shooter a 4.5/5 just a few weeks ago, and you'd be crazy not to snag this little beauty. Here's the intro paragraph to my review:

"MiniSquadron is fluid, smooth, and above all, a fantastic plane-based shooter. The art is great, I love the classical music, and the combat is so much fun. That’s something coming from a girl who’s rarely delved into the 2D shooter genre. Even after I’d played with MiniSquadron enough to write a decent review, I kept coming back to it. There’s something sweet and addicting about this game, and it has personality to spare. “Polish” doesn’t begin to describe it."

With dozens of planes to unlock, superb controls, and high replay value, MiniSquadron was a steal back at its $2.99 asking price. Developer MrFungFung (yes, that's the real name) has created a perfectly balanced app that should delight both newbies and genre veterans. Read our full review if you must, but for today, why don't you just grab the free download?

The Appvent Calender's second free game today is Payload. In this cartoony truck-driving game, you drive "Buck and his truck" across different landscapes, you have to collect falling items in order to earn points. Miss too many items or get crushed by one (i.e., a two-ton boulder) and it's game over; catch lots of items and complete a level to get paid. It's simple, cutesy, and far from complex, but it looks like it could be fun regardless. If you're looking for something simple, give this one a try while it's free!

Once again, remember that there are many developer-wide sales going on today in addition to the Appvent Calender! EA Games' ten-game sale, Chillingo's Wild $0.99 Sale, and Gameloft's Countdown to Christmas Sale are all still active.

Daily Double: Imp or Oaf?, Inferno for Free

Posted by Bonnie Eisenman on December 19th, 2009

Remember that there are many developer-wide sales going on today in addition to the Appvent Calender! EA Games' ten-game sale, Chillingo's Wild $0.99 Sale, and Gameloft's Countdown to Christmas Sale are all active and going strong!

From the Appvent Calender, though, we have quite the quirky game today. Imp or Oaf? is a simple game in which you have to tell if you're looking at an "imp" or an "oaf." The graphics are just what you'd expect in an illustrated children's book, and the audio is good too. The name says it all, and App Store reviewers are gushing over the game. Here's what the developers have to say:

"In the game, you’ll see a picture of either an imp or an oaf. It’ll be an extreme close up so you might not be able to tell what it is at first. But, if you can, press either the ‘IMP’ or the ‘OAF’ button to make your choice and you’ll get a full 100 points! Great Job!

"If you can’t tell what you’re seeing at first, you can tap the screen to zoom out. Your view will move a bit too so that you can see a different part of the picture, but you’ll lose a few points with each tap to zoom out. The more you can see, the easier it is to tell. Simple!"

Yesterday, I mentioned that UniWar was free in celebration of the developer's upcoming game. Well, Uniwar's developer, Xpressed, has just released their latest game, and now it's free today! The Inferno is an action-puzzle game which places you in the shoes of Dante. Yup, that Dante. I wonder what Alighieri would've thought of this? Anyway, in The Inferno, Virgil guides you through the circles of Hell and you have to brave Hell's dangers. Xpressed is taking an interesting approach to this game, releasing three different versions: a free version with 23 levels; a $0.99 version with 50 levels; and the full, 121-level version for $2.99. Whichever version you chose, the other levels may be purchased via in-app purchasing. Today, the 50-level version is free as a promotional offer!

Daily Double: AlphaBattle, UniWar for Free

Posted by Bonnie Eisenman on December 18th, 2009

EA Games continues with their ten-game sale 'til Christmas, while the Appvent Calender is featuring a word game called AlphaBattle. We also have a bonus freebie: UniWar, an excellent turn-based strategy game from Xpressed.

Is this the first word game we've seen from the Appvent Calender? Wow. Here's the developer's description of the game:

Make the best and longest words with the letters available, as fast as you can, before the Vowels and Consonants reach the touch line and become unavailable. AlphaBattle combines your word skills from games like Scrabble and Wurdle with your quick thinking and strategic reasoning from games like Tetris and Bejeweled, and adds some intuitive power-ups to the mix, to create a new and unique word puzzle game.

It looks like a pretty good twist on the usual word-building game, and I'm always up for a lexical challenge!

We first looked at UniWar back in April, giving it a 4-star rating and highly recommending it. UniWar isn't particularly original, but it's a great turn-based strategy game with support for online multiplayer. The Push Notifications added this fall just makes it better than ever. In our review, we praised it as "a deep, addicting strategy title that’s sure to please anyone with even a faint interest in games of this type." Here's a snippet explaining how the game works:

"You play as one of three races (just like genre mainstays such as Advance Wars), and your goal is to capture all of the enemy’s bases while defending your own. Combat and maneuvering are turn-based, and as the genre title suggests, strategy is a must. You won’t see anything exceptionally new here, so veterans will be able to jump in immediately.

With each passing turn, your bases generate credits that can be used to beef up your army, which is composed of individual units. The units are dependent on which race you’re playing. The humans Sapiens, for example, can have Marines, Tanks, Helicopters, among others. Regardless of the label applied to the unit, they’re classed as Ground Light, Ground Heavy, Aerial, or Aquatic."

UniWar was a steal when it was $0.99 and the current "price" is almost criminal. Make sure to grab it while it's free, because this one is too good to miss.

Daily Double: Cabby and Squarepeg Game for Free; EA Games Super Sale!

Posted by Bonnie Eisenman on December 17th, 2009

We have three deals for you folks today. First of all, EA has ten games on sale, many of which are a measly 99 cents. Some of the higher-priced ones are still good deals, too; Command & Conquer, for example, just received a multiplayer-enabling update and is now half-priced! EA Games has announced that these ten sales will last 'til Christmas, with no new ones forthcoming. Check out the list from yesterday's post here.

Now for our normal Appvent Calender goodies. "Cabby" is a flying taxi game with 3D graphics, and it looks pretty darned good! Here's the description from the developer:

"Cabby is a side-on 3D thrust-based game which puts the player in the driving seat of a flying taxi! Select from 10 different vehicles and fly through 15 unique levels, collecting customers and parcels as you go. Get your customers to their destinations as quickly as possible to earn a big tip!"

Sporting ten different vehicles, fifteen levels, and both Career and Arcade modes, Cabby looks like a nice little game. And, heck, who doesn't like flying taxis?

Air Cadets
In keeping with the Appvent Calender theme, the developers of Cabby have decided to make one of their other games free, permanently! Air Cadets is a simple airplane simulator with accelerometer controls. If you're looking for a new toy, you might as well give this one a shot.

Squarepeg Game
Meanwhile, we have yet another free app for you folks to try! Squarepeg Game is billed as "Sudoku, but with shapes!" It's a different spin on the traditional peg puzzle, in which you must get all your shapes down their appropriately holes. This free brain teaser comes with 16 free levels for your enjoyment, though you can also download more. The graphics aren't what I'd call slick, but, hey, it's a free puzzle, right?

That's it for today's Daily Double! Let us know if you plan on delving into EA Games' mega-sale...I'm curious as to what you think. Personally, I was hoping to get The Sims 3 at a lower price or something, but it's not a bad deal nevertheless.

Daily Double: TEN Sales from EA, Cheese Collect for Free

Posted by Bonnie Eisenman on December 17th, 2009

Well, well, well. Apparently EA Games doesn't want to put some of their top-selling titles like Tetris, Sims 3, and Scrabble on sale, because they've changed the terms of the 25 Days 'Til Xmas Sale. Instead of offering a new game for sale each day, ten games will be on sale for the remainder of the holiday season. These are mostly ones that we've seen before. Here's the full list, with brief descriptions:

Spore Origins
Spore Origins is based around the first stage of the Spore PC game, in which you play a tiny creature (your "Spore") and must swim around the "primordial ooze," avoiding larger creatures while devouring smaller ones. As you eat, you'll eventually evolve, adding parts and customizing your creature. On sale for $0.99.

Snood is an age-old game that everyone should recognize. While it's a classic, we unfortunately found this to be a "baffling, inexplicable, and aggravating" port. Besides, there are plenty of bubble-popping clones to choose from if you really, really need this kind of game. If you're a diehard fan, though, this is probably the time to get it. On sale for $0.99.

I've repeatedly praised Auditorium for its uniqueness and polish. You manipulate a stream of light to create music using "controls," which alter gravity, directional flow, speed, and more. Auditorium is both soothing and challenging, and a worthy addition to any library. On sale for $0.99.

EA Games' incarnation of Sudoku oozes polish. Sure, there are free versions out there, but if you're looking for a well-done paid app with a sleek oriental theme, look no farther. Speed demons might be annoyed by EA's signature insistence on animating things, but there's no denying that it look pretty. On sale for $0.99.

Connect 4
The iPhone version of Connect 4 doesn't add anything particularly exciting to the age-old game, though it's certainly a decent port. The graphics are good and there a few bells and whistles to spice things up, such as a myriad of multiplayer options (local only, though, via Pass 'n' Play, WiFi, or Bluetooth). If you're dying to get it, now's the time; otherwise, there are more engaging concepts out there than this one. On sale for $0.99.

Anytime Pool
It's pool. With multiplayer. To be precise, Facebook multiplayer, which means that finding an opponent shouldn't be too difficult. We haven't reviewed this one, but it looks promising enough that, coupled with the new price, fans of pool games should definitely take a look. On sale for $0.99.

Zombies & Me
In this little game, you're in charge of protecting Granny from the hordes of zombies outside her house. To do so, you must run around in circles, attempting to lure the zombies into designated "blast zones." It's simple, but the graphics are solid and it should be worth a chuckle or two. On sale for $0.99.

Jewel Quest Mysteries
This cheesily-themed game is combo of the match-3 and hidden-item genres. It's managed a rather incredible feat, however, maintaining a 5-star App Store rating. While I doubt you'll find much innovation here, it looks like it maintains the addictive qualities so important to its genre along with enough polish to make it a contender. On sale for $1.99.

Mystery Mania
Mystery Mania is a collection of small puzzles with limited challenges and low replay value, but, heck, it's a quarter of the price it was when we reviewed it. If you're looking for some light mental exercises wrapped up in a Halloween theme, at least give Mystery Mania's light version a spin. On sale for $0.99.

Command & Conquer Red Alert
Command & Conquer is a pricey RTS based on the popular franchise, but at least the price has been slashed! We gave it a solid four stars even at its former $10 price point, but if you were on the fence before, there's no excuse to skip this one now. On sale for $4.99.

And...that's the end of EA's list. Good lord, that should keep everyone occupied for a while...though I am disappointed that blockbusters like the Sims 3 won't be on sale.

Cheese Collect
Let's return to normalcy, shall we? Here's the Appvent Calender's offering for today:

The cat is trying to attack you again! In this fun puzzle game, you are a mouse who tries to steal cheese without setting off the traps set by the cat. However, everytime you move, the cat would move the cheese away from you, unless there’s no space for it.

I haven't tried Cheese Collect for myself, though the App Store reviews have been overwhelmingly negative. Oh, well...at least it's free, right?

That concludes our Daily Double for today!

Daily Double: Soft Freak Fiesta, Balcassa for Free; Sudoku $0.99

Posted by Bonnie Eisenman on December 15th, 2009

We continue our Daily Double article with another bonus freebie in addition to the Appvent Calender. While the Appvent Calender is offering Balcassa, a slider puzzle-Rubik's Cube combo, Gogogic has just released their multiplayer game Soft Freak Fiesta, and it's only free for today! Not to be left out, EA Games is throwing us a familiar puzzle game, Sudoku, for the rock-bottom price of a buck.

Oh, Sudoku, the puzzle that took my school system by storm. I think I've seen enough of these boxes to last me a lifetime, thank you very much, but if you're a fan of the games, EA's version is sure to delight. While it might be one of the older apps in the store, it retains all of the graphical glitz of all of EA's apps. Unfortunately for speed-demon serious players, the animations might get annoying as they slow you down. We looked at it in February, and found it to be a slickly presented clone of an age-old concept:

"Sudoku’s presentation is top-notch. The whole user interface is very slick and has a nice oriental vibe to it. Actual game play is very refined and the way annotations and hints are integrated is simple and easy to use. Initially three difficulty levels are available. You accrue Sudoku points by winning games and those are used to unlock two additional difficulty levels.

When you start a new game you can turn on error checking. This will instantly reveal whether you’ve correctly filled in a cell or not. In-game hints can reveal a particular cell’s value, and you can ask the game to annotate all cells if you wish. These all reduce the number of Sudoku points earned. In-game help explains all modes and aides."

It's not going to get any cheaper than this, folks. Grab it quick!

Soft Freak Fiesta
Yeah, it's not part of the normal Appvent Calender, but you can't pass on this one! We previewed it a few weeks ago and thought that it had a lot of promise, given a large-enough player pool. Obviously anticipating that a lot of players are necessary to make this game work, Gogogic has made Soft Freak Fiesta free for its first day! Here's a snippet from our preview article:

Soft Freak Fiesta is a sort of last man standing game take on marbles played out in turn on various game boards. While there are various game modes, they all have you aiming, bouncing, and rebounding your characters in the quest to destroy the players on the other team.

Complete with cartoony graphics, 3 types of Soft Freaks, 3 modes, and 5 levels, Soft Freak Fiesta looks like a lot of fun. You might as well give it a go while it's free, right? You can connect with friends using WiFi or Bluetooth, or play with anyone on the game's servers.

Like I said, Balcassa is a slider puzzle/Rubik's Cube combo. It looks pretty complex at later levels, so puzzle fans looking to stretch their brains a bit should be interested. Here's what the developer has to say:

"Balcassa includes a variety of games offering hours of increasingly challenging game-play. The object of each of the games is to rotate a number of cubes into a sequence, a pattern or orientation by moving them around the screen. In some games it may be enough to get each cube into position with the correct side showing, while in other games rotation of the cubes must also be considered. The idea is simple, the solution is not!"

If you're interested, remember: this "sale" is one day only!

Daily Double: Auditorium for $0.99 (Again?!) and Elf for Free

Posted by Bonnie Eisenman on December 14th, 2009

Well, the weekend might be over, but the sales certainly aren't. EA Games has Auditorium on sale for $0.99, and the Appvent Calender is giving away Elf for free.

I think I'm suffering from de ja vu...wasn't Auditorium on sale earlier this month? It was, actually, but if you missed it then this is the time to get it. I gave it a 4/5 and praised it for having all of EA's signature polish along with the inventiveness of an indie title. Auditorium is a puzzle "of light and sound" in which you manipulate a stream of light particles to get it to reach its intended destination. Once you fill the "Audio Containers" with light, music starts to play. While it's a bit hard to explain, it's incredibly intuitive and very soothing. For $0.99, this is an absolute steal.

"The puzzles will make you think, and it feels almost like an art piece at times. But it’s a vibrant, beautiful game, and thoughtful gamers may find themselves in love. The only downside is the (relatively) short number of included levels, though more can be obtained via in-app purchase."

The developer Matmi brings us a jump-higher game with an appropriate theme. Elf's graphics are light-hearted and well-done, and the game as a whole looks pretty good. Sure, it might not be that different from other App Store mainstays like Doodle Jump, but it's free, and sports much-appreciated functions like global and local leaderboards. Here's what the developer has to say:

It’s Christmas morning and there’s magic in the air, enough to send an elf soaring into the stratosphere. While Santa’s away, Irving the Elf like nothing more than leaping skyward, stepping on stars and bouncing on baubles trying to get as high as he can! Build your boost and collect candy canes for a point bonus while you help Irving hit the heavens, but watch out for the twisted tinsel, its pointy prickles will put a real crimp on your day.

Daily Double: Spore Origins for $0.99, iPharaoh for Free...and Super Monkey Ball 50% off!

Posted by Bonnie Eisenman on December 12th, 2009

It's hard to believe that our countdown to Christmas is halfway over. (24 days in December before Christmas, and today's the 12th!) I hope you all have your holiday shopping done. This Saturday morning comes with our two daily deals. Today, EA Games has Spore Origins on sale for $0.99, while the Appvent Calender is featuring iPharaoh Episode 2 from Studioufo.

Early perusers of the App Store may remember Spore Origins. I know that when I first bought my iPod, Best Buy was giving free copies of the game away with every iPod Touch...that seems so long ago! Anyway, while this game is over a year old, don't let that deter you. Spore Origins is based around the first stage of the Spore PC game, in which you play a tiny creature (your "Spore") and must swim around the "primordial ooze," avoiding larger creatures while devouring smaller ones. As you eat, you'll eventually evolve, adding parts and customizing your creature. One word of warning: it appears to use accelerometer controls without calibration options. If that's not a problem for you, go ahead and try it out!

iPharaoh is an original action-puzzler with a delicious mummy theme. I'll let the game's description speak for itself:

Your Pharaoh, peacefully resting inside an ancient Egyptian tomb is disturbed by the sound of hammers pounding away at his tomb.
Your mission is to defend your Pharaoh and his treasures from greedy treasure hunters by using the Pharaohs mighty powers to control mummies, giant cube stones, sliding doors and moving walls.

It looks surprisingly good, and it's far more original than many games in the App Store. You'll need both strategy and speed to excel here. Listening to the YouTube video, it sounded like the audio might become annoying after a few plays, but the mechanics looked solid and addicting. Heck, it's free. App Store reviews have been largely positive, and the developer clearly plans to update: an endless survival mode is promised with the next one. Grab it before the day's out!

Now for a truly awesome deal: Super Monkey Ball 2 is now 50%, which drops it from the premium tier down to an easier $4.99. The original Super Monkey Ball was one of the earliest and most ambitious App Store games, though it was plagued by rocky controls. Its successor has souped-up graphics, 115 levels, and Wi-Fi multiplayer. Be sure to read our review:

"Super Monkey Ball 2 is a huge step from its original self. While some isolated reports have come in of problems with the game crashing on the second generation iPod touch, in my experience of playing on an iPhone 3GS, gameplay was both smooth and fluent. Within superb in-game graphics, and an upbeat infamous sega-esque soundtrack to boot, Super Monkey Ball 2 is just one of those games you can pick up and play."

Seeing as its original price is $9.99, this is the day to get it if you're on the fence. The sale is for this weekend only!

Daily Double: Blimp and Elf Command for Free, Mystery Mania for $0.99

Posted by Bonnie Eisenman on December 10th, 2009

Today is a great day for freebies! Not only is the Appvent Calender featuring Blimp, a great steampunk-themed flying "platformer," but we also have a bonus treat. Elf Command, a simple holiday game, has just been released and is also free. EA, on the other hand, has Mystery Mania discounted to $0.99, but I'd pause before jumping for that one.

Let's start with Blimp. Like I said, it's got a steampunk theme, and as such you play the captain "Zed Pelin," who has his very own airship (er, blimp). The production values are top notch; eye candy and awesome music are both amply present. You have three main tasks: transport passengers, collect war supplies, and bomb enemies including tanks and other blimps. The gameplay is relatively simple but looks rather fun, and you can't beat Blimp for polish. Make sure you grab this one before the day's end, because it's an absolute steal.

Now for EA's Mystery Mania sale. The good news? The game's only $0.99, and it's packed with plenty of puzzles. The bad news? It's not quite up to par with EA's other releases. This "spooky" puzzle adventure was dubbed "slow" when we reviewed it in October:

The complete game consists of 27 spooky rooms full of “crazy conundrums, perilous traps, and intriguing secrets”. I can appreciate what they have tried to do here with the puzzles and solving the mystery, but it just was far too lackluster for me. All the puzzles seem to be at level 1, and when you progress from room to room, they don’t seem to get any harder. Most are so obvious and easily solved that you can, at times, feel like you are just going through the motions.

Still, that's not to say that Mystery Mania isn't worth looking at; $0.99 is a lot better than $3.99, and fans of lighter, simpler puzzles might find themselves happy.

We'll wrap up today with a bonus freebie: Elf Command, a new game from Retro Dreamer, makers of Sneezies and Eyegore's Eye Blast. It's simple, but both addicting and difficult as the game moves on. The screen is split into two halves; each half has a conveyor belt, a robot, and two shipping stations. Pictures flash on the shipping stations' screens, and you have to direct the robots to snatch the right toys from the conveyor belt. For a free holiday game, it's surprisingly fun. Definitely check this one out if you need another little time-waster.

Daily Double: Pandemonium for $0.99, Wheeler's Treasure for Free

Posted by Bonnie Eisenman on December 9th, 2009

This Wednesday brings us an old port from the PlayStation from EA and a quirky pirate-themed platformer called "Wheeler's Treasure" from the Appvent Calender. Let's dive right in, shall we?

Pandemonium - $0.99
I wrestled with Pandemonium when I first reviewed it, I'll admit. It's a 2.5-D platformer ported from the original PlayStation, and unfortunately its age shows. The level designs are entertaining at first, but failed to keep me hooked; dodgy controls and annoying lag kept me from enjoying the better aspects of the game. Not everything is bad here, though. Pandemonium does have the nostalgia factor going for it, and it has a certain charm. Supposedly, OS 3.0 helps with the lag, and iPhone 3GS and third-gen iPod users will likely experience better results anyway. I still doubt that it's worth five bucks, but for a dollar, old fans may want to take a second look.

Here's a peak at how gameplay works, from my review:

Each “world” had multiple levels, and the goal of each level is to make it from Point A to Point B. Sounds simple, right? A typical collection of enemies conspires to block your path and you have to either kill or avoid them to make it through. I really enjoyed some of the level designs, straightforward though they were. Run, jump, kill things…that’s just about it, but Pandemonium does it pretty well. Using the environment to your advantage is key, whether you’re jumping on bouncy watermelon-like things or riding a geyser to the next platform. Hearts, jewels, coins, and other random items can be found floating in the levels to aid you on your quest for Point B.

Wheeler's Treasure - Free
What's this? Might the free game be better than the paid one today? I can't give a definite opinion on that, but Wheeler's Treasure certainly looks like one of the better Appvent Calender offerings to date. Your character chases a wooden wheel through the level, trying to keep going for as many "yarrrds" as possible. There are obstacles to dodge, ranging from flying crows and cannonballs to deadly pits and skeletons, and treasure to collect. Some items, like a pirate's hook, will help you survive your fast-paced travels. The graphics and audio both seem solid, too. Sure, the controls could be more precise, and the premise is ridiculous, but Wheeler's Treasure looks like a great swashbuckling diversion. And, heck, it's free. I'm not going to complain. Compared to the mix of apps we've seen so far from the Appvent Calender, Wheeler's Treasure lands firmly in the land of "good."

Daily Double: CLUE for $0.99, Ickle Count for Free

Posted by Bonnie Eisenman on December 8th, 2009

Today's Daily Double comes with a real gift from EA Games: Clue for $0.99. Meanwhile, the Appvent Calender is featuring Ickle Count (a kid-oriented counting game), and Gamevil has a bit of a bonus for us, too: Hybrid: Eternal Whisper is on sale for $2.99 for a limited time.

Let's start with Clue. While this is wrapped in all of the traditional board game's branding, it's actually not the game you're familiar with. Instead of a board game in which you compete against other players or the computer, it's a one-player mystery-fest in which you step into the shoes of a sleuth. Once again, Mr. Boddy has been murdered, and it's up to you to figure out which of his devious guests is at fault. We looked at Clue back in June:

Albeit quite different from the traditional Clue board game experience, this app is an excellent mystery solving puzzler. Some have criticized this game for being C.I.N.O., Clue in name only, if you will, but that is a strong criticism for an iPhone adaptation which retains much of the original whodunnit Clue spirit.

Given that this game usually goes for $4.99, this is the day to get it if you're looking for a detective-style app. Has anyone else noticed that EA is putting a lot of its summer releases on sale?

The Appvent Calender's offering is much less serious. Ickle Count is light-hearted and colorful—and above all, simple. The name of the game is counting. Numbered divers float in the water above a sea monster, and it's your job to tap them in sequence as quickly as possible before time runs out. From the bright graphics to the silly theme, it's clear that this one is targeted towards younger children, not older gamers.

So far we've had a morbid mystery and a cheerful counting game. Adding to the mix is Hybrid: Eternal Whisper, which differs starkly from our other two deals. Hybrid is a hardcore combat-based RPG with a fantastic combat system, a good amount of customization, and a heavy emphasis on combo moves. Unfortunately, it's hampered by heavy dialogue and load screens, but for a serious gamer, the combat makes it all worth it. A recent update also added a great "battle only" mode. While this isn't technically part of the Daily Double, it is on sale—50% off, in fact, which puts it at $2.99.

That brings today's Daily Double to a close. As always, we'll be back tomorrow!

Daily Double: Mass Effect Galaxy for $0.99, Polyhedra for Free

Posted by Bonnie Eisenman on December 7th, 2009

Ah, wasn't the weekend nice? Unfortunately, Monday is here. At least we get some sales as a consolation prize, right? As usual, here are the daily goods from EA Games' 25 Days Til Xmas sale as well as the Appvent Calender.

First up is Mass Effect Galaxy from EA, which is on sale for $0.99, down from $4.99. That's one heck of a price drop, especially from EA. The basic premise, as outlined in our review, is as follows:

The fate of the human race is at stake; alien terrorists are plotting to wipe humanity from the face of the galaxy with a deadly biological agent. You assume the role of Jacob Taylor; a biotic-powered super soldier who must intervene in order to preserve mankind’s right to exist.

Bioware intended the iPhone game to bridge the gap between Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effect 2, and though it's by no means a necessary buy if you want to understand the second game's story, it does add some background information. It's a third-person shooter complete with dialogue and cutscenes. We gave it a 3.5 / 5 back in June. Be sure to read the full review for more a more detailed look at the game.

Meanwhile, today's Appvent Calender release brings us Polyhedra, a pastel-colored take on the "fill-em-up" game. (Fans of "Just Fillin," an early App Store success, will find extremely familiar gameplay here.) You start each level with a colorful screen, empty except for a few bouncing particles. Tap a spot, and a bubble/polygon grows around your finger; release to complete the polygon. If your polygon hits a particle before it's complete, it pops. You're given a limited number of polygons per level, and you have to fill at least two-thirds of the screen to progress. As you beat more levels, other "zones" are unlocked with different polygon shapes. There's also a "toy box" mode for just playing around. If you're looking for a good casual game, this is one to grab; while it might not be an original game concept, at least the execution is solid.

That's it for today's specials, but there will be more tomorrow. Check back then!