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Daily Double: Boggle and Life for $0.99, Crazy Snowboard for Free

Posted by Bonnie Eisenman on December 11th, 2009

EA Games has given us a great gift in preparation for the weekend: we have not one, but two great franchises on sale for $0.99. Both Boggle and Life have had their prices slashed to just under a dollar, while the Appvent Calender is featuring Crazy Snowboard, a 3D snowboarding game from eZone.

I looked at Life myself a few months ago, and it's a great port of the classic board game. Almost every element makes the transition well, from the spinner to the colorful graphics to the fortunate and unfortunate events that happen to your poor character. Playing board games solo can be a lonely experience, but Life's AI's are competent and you can fast-forward through their turns; on the other hand, if you actually have a group of friends who want to play Life, EA's Pass 'n' Play is here too. There are no corners cut when it comes to production values, and this is just one more great board game port in EA's giant stable. Sure, it relies heavily on "traditional" family ideals (everyone gets married, everyone gets a house, unemployment blissfully lasts for a few seconds at most), but if you're nostalgic for the old game, go for it while it's cheap.

Boggle is another great game, and one that word fans should love. When we looked at this September, it had all the bones of the great game but sadly it was missing some things:

I was interested to finally see Boggle launch on the App Store and more than ready to try it out. What I found was a good 1.0 game with an interesting approach but lacking a lot of the polish that the veteran apps have added along the way…There are some great features in the Advanced mode of this app, but the rest seems like it needs time and polish.

Take that recommendation with a grain of salt, however. Since we reviewed it, much-wanted updates have brought new features like Pass ‘n’ Play, and some bugs have been ironed out. Plus, hey, it’s Boggle. Any word fan can tell you that along with Scrabble, crosswords, and word finds, Boggle-style games are a nearly-ancient standby. You won’t find this game for cheaper—at least not an official version—so if you’ve been on the fence, this is the time to buy.

And, finally, the Appvent Calender brings us Crazy Snowboard. Not Crazy Snowboarding, mind you, but Crazy Snowboard. What can be crazy about a simple board, I wonder?

Anyway, this looks like it follows the familiar track of snowboarding games. The graphics are great, and there’s a lot of content, too; thirty missions are included and you can unlock a number of boards and riders. You can grind on rails, boxes, logs, and candycanes, and it just looks like an awesome freebie for fans of such games. Future updates promise to add Plus+ support and leaderboards. For a sports game, this seems to have quite a bit of depth, and you can’t beat the price.

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!


iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
By Bonnie Eisenman on December 7th, 2009
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: ELEGANT
EA's Auditorium is a musical puzzle delight with all of EA's polish and the inventiveness of an indie studio. While more content would be highly appreciated, Auditorium is still a treat.
Read The Full Review »

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!

Daily Double: Auditorium & Surviving High School $0.99, Totemo for Free

Posted by Bonnie Eisenman on December 4th, 2009

Well, I decided to call this column the "Daily Double" because of EA's 25 Days Til Xmas Sale and Blacksmith Games' Appvent Calender, but EA has decided to mess me up by having two games on sale today: Auditorium and Surviving High School are both on sale for $0.99. Meanwhile, the Appvent Calender is featuring Totemo, a casual puzzle game with some nice graphics.

I actually played Auditorium for the first time last night, and let me say that this game is fantastic. It has all the polish of an EA app with the inventiveness of an indie game. It's hard to describe how the game works, but once you play it, everything is intuitive. It's a soothing puzzle game in which you divert beams of light into containers to create sound. The level designs are elegant, and there are multiple solutions to each stage. Once you complete a level, you're left with a "symphony of light and sound." It's beautiful and quirky, even if it is lacking a bit on content. (You can buy additional level packs via in-app purchase.)

Surviving High School is an app-store success in which you take on the role of a high-school student. There are the usual tribulations—fights, girl drama, and so on—that you'd expect of high school life. The App Store reviews are mostly positive, though many have complained about not being able to play as a girl; you can shape your character into jock or nerd, popular guy or hated outsider. Plus, each week brings a new "episode," introducing new content that replaces the old. It seems to have garnered quite the following.

The Appvent Calender is clearly working as a developer promotional tool; according to Blacksmith Games, the previous apps have all managed to surge into the Top 100 Free list. Today's offering is Totemo, a puzzle game with good graphics and a totem-pole theme, even if the gameplay isn't overly original (it's a twist on the math-3 formula). Totemo includes both a Story mode and a frenetic Survival mode, and should be worth a download for puzzle fans.

Daily Double: Boggle for $0.99 and Snorkeling, Ramp Champ for Free

Posted by Bonnie Eisenman on December 3rd, 2009

Daily deals are apparently popular this Christmas season. Between Blacksmith Games' daily free app from the Appvent Calender and EA Games' 25 Days Til Xmas Sale, there are a lot of one-day-only specials to keep track of. While EA Games isn't offering any free games, they'll be offering up to 80% off on one game per day 'til Christmas, with some games as low as 99 cents. As for the Appvent Calender...well, you'd be crazy to pass up on free games. So, from now on, we're going to try and update you daily on these awesome deals.

Today's freebie is Snorkeling, a game from Alfonso Bonzzelli. I'm still trying to figure out why there's a fishing bear, but it certainly looks worth a download. Here's what the developer has to say:

"Snorkeling is a funny, simple and intuitive game. You have to swipe your finger on the screen to move the bear cub and catch as many fish as possible (the good ones!). There are different types of fish, each one worth a certain number of points. Be careful to stay away from the bad fish or you will die and remember that you can’t stay underwater for long without recharging your oxygen."

Meanwhile, EA Games has Boggle on sale for $0.99 today. While Billy suggested that fans of the game wait, it's not going to get any cheaper than this, and Boggle is one of the classic games that all word fans need. The latest update added Pass 'n' Play multiplayer, and the game's wrapped with all the graphical polish you'd expect from EA. An Advanced mode adds some extra strategy to the mix. Make sure to read our detailed review!

And for today, one bonus deal: Ramp Champ is also free. It's a playful take on skee ball from Iconfactory that should provide some simple fun. It includes four different games, each with points and goals; trophies and prizes can be collected as well.

We'll be posting our "Daily Double" feature tomorrow, too. Be sure to check back!


iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
By Bonnie Eisenman on November 24th, 2009
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: PRETTY GOOD
This classic version of MONOPOLY finally brings the real version to the iPhone. While it's got a few rough edges, it's still a good port of a fantastic board game.
Read The Full Review »

Scrabble Update: Notifications? Um, sure.

Posted by Bonnie Eisenman on October 7th, 2009
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: RECOMMENDED :: Read Review »

For a long time now, I've been using the Lexulous app exclusively for my online Scrabble games. Why? Well, even if it had less features, Lexulous was just easier to use.

With Scrabble's newest update, I decided to give the official EA app another shot. The menus are vastly improved: though some things still don't make sense, it's a lot easier to jump into a game. The game's speed has apparently been given a small jolt, too, and you can now use your own music. But what had me most excited was the promise of "push notifications."

Okay, EA, for the love of god: are you trying to torment me? These so-called "notifications" don't exist, as far as I can tell. They certainly aren't push notifications. And yet, despite this, I receive occasional "tips" telling me to turn Push Notifications on in the Settings app. I've checked. There's no option to do so. I don't think I'm the only one, either: the current version is being bombarded with angry 1-star reviews in the App Store. I've tried restarting my iPod and reinstalling the app; nothing changes in my Settings menu.

I'm not sure if EA submitted the wrong app version or if maybe there's a bug on certain devices. (I'm running a 2G iPod Touch with 8GB of storage.) But either way, this is strange. Shame on you, EA. I got excited over nothing at all.

The Game of Life

iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
By Bonnie Eisenman on August 18th, 2009
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: CLASSIC
LIFE is an old classic, and if you like the board game, you'll be delighted with EA's port. It's colorful, smooth, and just like the original. It's nice to see such a good port!
Read The Full Review »


iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
By Bonnie Eisenman on May 6th, 2009
Our rating: starstarhalfstarblankstarblankstar :: UNINSPIRING
Pandemonium is a port of an old PSone game, and it shows. It's fun at first, but there's nothing special in this 2.5-D platformer.
Read The Full Review »


iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
By Bonnie Eisenman on April 7th, 2009
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: RECOMMENDED
Scrabble's most recent update—the full-fledged integration of Facebook Connect—adds some competition to what was already a great word game. While the port does have plenty of flaws, it's still the same amazing game of strategy, luck, and knowl
Read The Full Review »


iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
By Bonnie Eisenman on February 24th, 2009
Our rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar :: AVERAGE
Tetris is a game with a strong following of dedicated fans and casual players alike. While EA Games has made a decent attempt at porting it to the iPhone, it falls short of its potential thanks to clunky controls and somewhat limited gameplay, which is a
Read The Full Review »