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Monsters Rising Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Lucy Ingram on November 15th, 2013
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: MONSTERS
Monsters Rising looks like a fun-filled, action-packed adventure, but is hindered by troublesome setbacks.
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Thor: The Dark World Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Lucy Ingram on November 6th, 2013
Our rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar ::
Laden with clunky controls, messy visuals, and shallow combat, Thor: The Dark World is not the marvel we expected.
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Fieldrunners 2 Adds In-App Purchases – Because Users Demanded It

Posted by Carter Dotson on October 22nd, 2012

Fieldrunners 2 is getting in-app purchases, according to a blog post from the game’s developer, Subatomic Studios. Such a thing should not be notable in 2012, as in-app purchases have become the norm. But there’s two reasons why this is a story: one, Fieldrunners 2 launched without IAP at first at all, a rarity considering that the game had a virtual currency in place for buying in-game upgrades already. Second, the reason why they did it reveals something interesting about people’s expectations of App Store games.

This isn’t necessarily a case of Subatomic Studios not having made a lot of money so far, because according to its own numbers, the game has made over $1 million so far. That’s more than Jetpack Joyride made in its first few months, for comparison, though before it went free-to-play. Considering the long amount of time between entries of the Fieldrunners series and the game’s high production values, it’s likely that there would be a high cost to make the game, though the original Fieldrunners has had the benefit of being on many platforms to help bring in revenue over that time as well.

Fieldrunners 2 also had the benefit of launching at a “premium” app price on iOS: $2.99 for the iPhone version, and $7.99 for the iPad version, neither of which is universal. The iPad version doesn’t have the IAP yet; I reached out to Alec Shobin, marketing and PR manager at Subatomic, who explained that “It will probably come to the iPad version later. We wanted to launch it on one platform at time in order to work out any kinks, since this is pretty new to us.”

Now, there is an interesting reason given by Subatomic as to why the studio would go ahead and reverse course on IAP: people actually wanted it. The general trend among the ‘core’ gamer community is that in-app purchases are bad for consumers and potentially exploitative. If Subatomic is to be believed, however, there were people actually wanting the ability to buy more in-app currency. Shobin reasons that “they appreciate and almost expect that feature, especially in an iOS game.”

This kind of behavior has become standard procedure, and even premium games are conditioning players to expect in-app purchases, which is likely due to the oft-copied Infinity Blade series’ decision to include them. The difference is in that Fieldrunners 2 is doing something more akin to the original Infinity Blade, adding them in post-hoc, rather than integrating them as part of the initial product as with Infinity Blade 2.

But does Subatomic Studios feel like it may come off as feeling greedy due to adding IAP to a game that already came with a ‘premium’ price? "Yes, this is absolutely a concern," said Shobin, "but there isn’t really much we can do about it. People asked for a way to buy coins with money. We’re running a business, so it would be foolish for us to turn them down when we can meet their needs without doing anything else to change a game that our existing community loves so much. If people want us to keep making games - if we want to keep making games that we love - we need to recoup our development costs AND earn enough to begin our next game(s).”

While there’s definitely a steady contingent of people complaining already about the change, the choice for Subatomic Studios seems easy in the context of whether they should listen to the people that want them to not have IAP, versus those that want them to shut up and take their money. It just shows how much consumable IAP has become a part of the iOS gaming market that now even the feature’s exclusion is cause for complaint from users. It’s a problem that developers want to have – the demand from people to give the developers more money to keep playing their game.

NFL Pro 2013 Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Carter Dotson on October 4th, 2012
Our rating: starhalfstarblankstarblankstarblankstar :: WORSE THAN REPLACEMENT REFS
NFL Pro 2013 is a free-to-play football game that is offensively bad with its monetization techniques.
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App Update: Catan Updates With New Cities & Knights Expansion

Posted by Rob LeFebvre on August 28th, 2012
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

The venerable (and fun!) board game translation, Catan, gets a new expansion, available for $X.XX as an in-app purchase.

The Cities and Knights expansion introduces various new gameplay mechanics that add even more variety to Catan. Invest new trade goods in city improvements to build one of the three metropolises of Catan – but beware of the barbarians attracted by Catan’s new wealth! You’ll need your best knights to fend them off! C&K contains a short campaign and 7 challenging maps.

Puppy Sanctuary Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Angela LaFollette on August 17th, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: PUPPIES GALORE
If match-3 puzzlers and little doggies tickle your fancy, Puppy Sanctuary is definitely worth exploring.
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Bomb the Zombies Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Dale Culp on July 16th, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: BLAST THE UNDEAD
Bring down the house in this physics-based, zombie blasting game!
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Bug Princess 2: Black Label

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Sinan Kubba on June 29th, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: BACK IN BLACK
A new spin on another fantastic iOS shmup from CAVE
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Sky Gnomes Review

Posted by Carter Dotson on May 2nd, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Developer: Foursaken Media
Price: $0.99
Version Reviewed: 1.1
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2, iPod touch 4

Graphics / Sound Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar
Game Controls Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar
Replay Value Rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar


Sky Gnomes is a game about a world where gnomes have taken to the sky. For entertainment? They race each other by free-falling from the sky. The player controls a gnome of their own, with the goal being to get the end of the level as quickly as possible. Players pick up speed by flying through snowflakes, collect coins for upgrades, powerups to help get a leg up on opponents, and try to avoid storm clouds and lightning. These gnomes are falling from the sky, after all.

The name of the game is asynchronous multiplayer competition, in particular against random online opponents. Players will have two ghost gnomes to race against, based off of the performance of actual opponents. Five different cups are available, each taking place in a different environment.

Having actual opponents to race against, even if they're just ghosts, adds a compelling aspect to the game. The drive to succeed is just that much greater when there's an actual name to chase on the leaderboard, rather than some random opponent. Sky Gnomes is both universal, and supports cloud saving. It doesn't appear to use iCloud, instead using Game Center authentication to pull data from the servers between platforms. Good enough!

Sky Gnomes just winds up feeling kinda samey – falling through the sky, avoiding clouds, trying to hit snowflakes; no matter the level, there just doesn't feel like there's a lot of variety. Better integration with friends that play the game would be great, especially since there's already the ability to race ghost opponents. A battle mode is coming in a future update.

As well, the game winds up feeling like it's pushing in-app purchases. Yes, this is the world we live in, but stat upgrades require a lot of grinding, and those rarer parts might be given out at the end of the game, or perhaps not. So that $0.99 parts pack sits there, tempting the player. After all, maybe some increased speed and acceleration would help get things going along. It's a potentially slippery slope, of course. While the highest pack only costs $14.99, and certainly seems like it has more items than a person could reasonably use, the whole thing still just feels like it's necessary. At a certain point if I want to do something more than just grind and actually compete, I feel like I'll need to spend money.

Sky Gnomes is an interesting short-term play experience, but those that try it out should be warned: the temptation to spend money on IAP will hit. Progress just feels too slow otherwise.

Nom Nom Paleo Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Angela LaFollette on May 1st, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: EAT LIKE A CAVEMAN
Nom Nom Paleo is an interactive cookbook focused on providing users with detailed recipes and high definition photos specifically for the Paleolithic diet.
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Dragon's Lair Comics Come to iOS

Posted by Carter Dotson on April 19th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

zuuka Comics have teamed up with Don Bluth Studios to bring the Dragon's Lair comic book series to iOS. Originally published in its entirety in 2006, this comic series follows the adventures of the game's protagonist, Dirk the Daring, as he tries to rescue the beautiful Princess Daphne from the dragon Singe. Apparently he didn't appreciate Dirk invading his lair last time.

This comic tries to bring all the humor of the game in a format that doesn't involve trying to move a joystick in the right direction, in the hopes that was the correct one. The series includes the issue #1 cover art and a bonus story drawn by Don Bluth himself, with the rest of the art drawn by Fabio Laguna, and issues written by Andy Mangels, Ryan Foley, and Jimmy PS Hayes. The app is universal and free to download, with the first issue for free. Each of the following 5 issues are available as in-app purchases for $1.99 each.

Where's My Water? Gets Cranky With Gameplay-Changing Cranky's Story Update

Posted by Carter Dotson on January 27th, 2012

Disney's physiscs puzzler Where's My Water has gotten a new update that adapts the familiar mechanics in new ways with the new Cranky's Story levels. The goal of these levels is to help out Cranky, the alligator who tries to thwart protagonist Swampy in the main mode. Now, he's hungry, and being an alligator, he is content to eat things like safes. However, he is not content to eat them when they're covered in moss. So, the player must get the moss-killing purple water to Cranky's food so he can eat it.

The mechanics are still the same – use a finger to cut through the dirt and navigate the fluids through the level. It's just that now the purple water is the one that needs to get to the goal point, and this changes the dynamic of the game. Suddenly, the water becomes the substance that needs to stay away from the rubber ducks lest they are made to disintegrate upon contact with a non-grimy surface. Of course, the purple water still reacts with the other fluids in the same way, but the levels are designed to take advantage of the mixed-up dynamics.

Also in the app are the new Cranky's Challenges which are difficult new challenges that require Swampy's levels to be played in different ways, like trying to collect three of the cranky ducks with purple water while still filling Swampy's tub with blue water, or trying to get rid of all the blue water in a level without even a single drop reaching Swampy.

5 of these levels and 3 of the challenges are available for free; the rest are locked away as a $0.99 IAP, containing 50 regular levels and 16 challenge levels in total. The game will still receive free Swampy updates, and possibly even more Cranky levels in the future. This update is available now for iOS.

Katamari Amore Takes a Time Trip With New Content Pack

Posted by Carter Dotson on October 31st, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar :: A FLEETING LOVE :: Read Review »

When Katamari Amore released, it came with the promise that more content would be added to the game beyond its intital level pack. I am proud to report that Namco are not liars, as a new level pack will be made available on Thursday, October 27th. The Time Trip pack features levels that send the Prince throughout history to collect thing for the ever-demanding King of All Cosmos. Six new levels are playable in Time Trial, Story, Exact Size Challenge, and Eternal modes. The pack will be available for $3.99, identical to the first pack, with one level's Time Trial mode unlocked for free. As well, this pack will also feature a bonus mode based on a Namco game, and instead of another Pac-Man level - this time a Tekken-themed level is available. It's something of an unexpected choice; what could be next? Soul Calibur? Mappy? Tower of Druaga? Toy Pop? The long-lost Pac-Man 2 game for 16-bit consoles? A Splatterhouse level? I don't think I would even want to see that.

iQuarterback 2 Pocket Edition Comes to iPhone and iPod touch

Posted by Carter Dotson on June 17th, 2011
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

Photogram Brings a New Way to Share Photos to iOS

Posted by Carter Dotson on June 16th, 2011
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

The newest photo sharing service has hit iOS, Photogram. This app isn't meant to just share single photos with some filter added to them that gets blasted out to social media services; Photogram tries to do something a bit more personal. Users pick from 1-4 photos either taken with the camera inside the app or from their Camera Roll, add an optional message to send along with the photos, add a theme, and send it out to their friends, family, or whoever they want to receive the photos. The limit of 4 photos is in order to keep Photogram emails from being obnoxious, as the Photogram FAQ states: "Nobody wants to plow through dozens and dozens of photos."

Photogram allows for users to share photos with their friends via email, Facebook, and even Twitter. It is also possible to create specific user groups so photos can be regularly sent to common recipients. So, it's easy to create a group for family so they can share their newest photos to them, or for a certain circle of friends to get photos relevant to just them. Users can add designs to their photos with a variety of available themes, created by independent artists. These include basic themes for just simple colors to sports-related themes to even one entitled "Robot Friend." These themes are available via in-app purchase, with part of the revenue going directly to the artists. For the first week of release, users will get 30 themes for free. Artists interested in submitting their own themes for use in Photogram can get in touch with them through the email address at the bottom of the Photogram FAQ.

Photogram currently only shares to email, Twitter and Facebook; other services may be added in the future if users request them. As well, the app is currently exclusive to iOS; other operating systems may get Photogram later on. Photogram is available from the App Store right now as a free download.