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On Sunday, Apple and a ton of big-name publishers and developers launched a Apps for Red, containing a bunch of updates and sales centered around the AIDS awareness charity Product Red, which contributes to the AIDS Global Fund. Apple has worked with Product Red before, with things like red iPods, but this is a new direction, as a bunch of apps have added red themes, red icons, have sales contributing toward Product Red, and even have new content for the occasion. Threes [$2.99] has a new red theme along with new night colors, and games starting with higher card numbers, and 100% of the app's price is going toward Product Red. Monument Valley [$3.99] has a new final chapter, "Ida's (RED) Dream" which is available for $0.99 with all proceeds going toward Product Red. Free-to-play games are getting into it as well: Clash of Clans [Free] has a special Product Red gems pack, FIFA 15 Ultimate Team [Free] has a Red points pack and a special tournament to unlock Rafa Marquez, Bubble Witch 2 Saga [Free] has special Product Red levels where gold bars used in them will go toward the Global Fund. There's 16 games in total that are contributing to Product Red in some way until December 7th. Check out the list below:
- Threes [$2.99]
- Monument Valley [$3.99]
- Clash of Clans [Free]
- Frozen Free Fall [Free]
- Puzzle and Dragons [Free]
- FIFA 15 Ultimate Team [Free]
- Bubble Witch 2 Saga [Free]
- Despicable Me: Minion Rush [Free]
- Rayman Fiesta Run [$2.99]
- CSR Racing [Free]
- Heads Up [Free]
- FarmVille 2: Country Escape [Free]
- Cut the Rope 2 [$2.99]
- Angry Birds [$0.99 / $2.99 (HD)]
- The Sims FreePlay [Free]
- Kim Kardashian Hollywood [Free]
Interestingly, these paid apps are actually a rare exception to a known rule regarding apps donating to charity – I've seen developers mention that this is because Apple can't verify that the donations are being made. So Apple's bending their own rules here to let Threes donate to charity, for example.
Welcome to the week, everyone! It's time for our weekly look at notable or interesting updates from the last week that you may or may not have missed. Remember, you can keep an eye out for interesting updates yourself by using AppShopper Social [Free], the watchlist in the TouchArcade App [Free], or by paying very careful attention to the TouchArcade forums. If I've missed anything you think should be mentioned, please leave a comment so others can see it. Following on last week's feedback, I'm going to present things as more of a list this time around. Lots of big ones this week, and a couple of interesting smaller ones, too. Let's dig in!
Candy Crush Soda Saga [Free] is now even more of a saga, with 15 new levels arriving in the latest update. Will most of the people playing it ever see them? My first guess is no, but I've seen some awfully persistent King fans in my time, so I suspect many of them are cresting the 150-level mark already and will be needing these new boards soon. This new update is fortified with licorice pieces, which should bring a shiver to the spines of any Candy Crush veterans.
Minecraft - Pocket Edition [$6.99] got its 0.10 update, bringing a lot of bug fixes and performance enhancements that fans have been asking for. You can now play in Creative Mode both during the day and night. Also, apparently baby animals were having drowning issues, which is probably fairly realistic, but a bit ghastly, so they've all been given swimming lessons. Oh, and the Mesa biomes now have gold mines in them, so you can reenact the gold rush in your own world. Sure, this is a bit less significant than the 0.9.0 update, but little tweaks can make for big differences.
The Blockheads [Free] wins my vote for the coolest update of the week. The new 1.6 updates adds jetpacks. Yes, that's right, jetpacks. There are tons of other things in there, too, like graphical improvements, new floating islands, new types of ore and fibers, and a whole bunch of little changes to make the game better, but seriously, jetpacks. If you didn't already hit the update button after reading that word the first time, you are off my Christmas card list.
Ghost Blade [$4.99] is, in my opinion, the best melee action game available on iOS. I gave it top marks in my review, though there was one little thing that wasn't up to snuff. Although not the most important thing in an action game, the English translation on Ghost Blade was really, really rough. Well, if that was holding you back for whatever reason, you're in luck. With the help of TouchArcade forums' very own metalcasket, Yushi Games has retranslated the game so that you can actually enjoy the story that goes along with the sweet, sweet combo-dancing.
Joe Dever's Lone Wolf [$0.99] has been building up to its finale over the course of the last year or so, and it's finally here. Act 4 - Dawn Over V'Taag is ready and waiting for you and Lone Wolf to finish the fight. Our review should be updated to its final form pretty shortly, so keep an eye out for that if you haven't bought in yet on this unusual take on the gamebook genre. With this game wrapped up, it will be interesting to see what Forge Reply gets up to next on mobiles.
Godfire: Rise of Prometheus [$0.99] is on sale right now for a great price, so it's probably a lucky thing they updated the game with full support for new hardware and iOS 8. While they were at it, they also gave the graphics performance and enemy AI a once-over, which should help towards some of the criticisms of the game. In any case, tossing a buck for a game this gorgeous isn't exactly a high-regret scenario.
Crowman & Wolfboy [$3.99] now has new levels, obstacles, and enemies to round out the game a little more. If you haven't checked out this stylish runner, you might want to read our review to get familiarized with it before deciding to take the plunge. In any case, fans of this game have been looking forward to this update for a while, so it's good to see it's here.
Wolfenstein 3D [$1.99] and Rage HD [$1.99] have both been updated for iOS 8 and the screens of newer hardware. It feels like every new version of iOS breaks these poor games, leading id to temporarily pull them from the App Store and make us all freak out a little before tossing them back up in fixed form. It's nice to see that even though id's interest in new iOS projects left with John Carmack, they're still standing by their old titles.
Wave Wave [$2.99] got an incredible update a little while back that brought heavy changes to the game to the point that it almost feels like a sequel. If you happen to miss the game's original form, the latest update offers up two legacy modes to satisfy your desire. This update also includes a few new language options and some minor tweaks.
Pyramid Solitaire Saga [Free]'s had a few bug fixes now and new levels are being added in earnest, with last week's update bringing 20 new levels to push your way through. I wasn't the biggest fan of the game, but if it's your thing, there's nothing wrong with more of it.
Those are the most interesting updates I could find for the last week, but if you notice anything missing, please comment below to spread the word. I also would appreciate continued feedback about the format and layout, since we're still in the early stages and are free to experiment a little. We'll keep you updated throughout the week on bigger updates, and I'll be back next Monday to wrap things up. Have a great week!
We recorded a bit earlier than we usually do today, which means it's just me and Jared as Mike fell asleep in a pile of Ritz crackers. That's alright though, as we have a great conversation about side scrolling racing games, iOS controllers, and a bunch of other cool stuff.
Don't forget to shoot us emails with any questions, feedback, or anything else relevant or irrelevant to firstname.lastname@example.org. We read 'em all, even if they don't make it into the podcast. As always, you can listen to us with the links below... And if you like what you hear, please subscribe and/or drop us a review in iTunes. Much appreciated!
iTunes Link: The TouchArcade Show
Zune Marketplace: TouchArcade.com Podcasts
RSS Feed: The TouchArcade Show
Direct Link: TouchArcadeShow-182.mp3, 88.2MB
- Earn to Die 2 [$1.99]
- Offroad Legends 2 [$1.99]
- Checkpoint Champion [Free]
- Crossy Road [Free]
- Sunburn [$2.99]
- Gobble Up These Pre-Thanksgiving Game Sales
- 'Gunbrick' Officially Unveiled from 'Icebreaker' Developer Nitrome
- 'Wolfenstein 3D Classic' Returns to the App Store with iOS 8 and Widescreen Support
- 'Exiles: Far Colony' Trailer Released by Crescent Moon Games
- The Fantastic 'Ghost Blade' Now More Readable Thanks to Our Forum Community
- First Trailer and Details Revealed for 'Need for Speed No Limits'
- Telltale and HBO Reveal First 'Game of Thrones' Trailer
- Widget Mania Hits Its Peak With Inevitable '2048' Widget
- Upcoming Hack 'n Slash 'Taichi Panda' Gets a New Trailer, Release Set for December
- 'Monument Valley' is Free For Android Users on the Amazon App Store
- Apple Changes "Free" to "Get" on App Store Download Buttons
- 'Highrise Heroes' from Noodlecake and Fallen Tree Games Drops in December
- The SteelSeries Stratus XL Wireless Gaming Controller is Now Available
- EA Releases New 'SimCity BuildIt' Trailer, Worldwide Launch "Coming Soon"
The idea behind the TouchArcade Game of the Week is that every Friday afternoon we post the one game that came out this week that we think is worth giving a special nod to. Now, before anyone goes over-thinking this, it doesn't necessarily mean our Game of the Week pick is the highest scoring game in a review, the game with the best graphics, or really any other quantifiable "best" thing. Instead, it's more just us picking out the single game out of the week's releases that we think is the most noteworthy, surprising, interesting, or really any other hard to describe quality that makes it worth having if you were just going to pick up one.
These picks might be controversial, and that's OK. If you disagree with what we've chosen, let's try to use the comments of these articles to have conversations about what game is your game of the week and why.
Without further ado…
I can't even tell you how difficult it is some weeks to pick a Game of the Week. This week was definitely one of the hardest yet, as it was neck and neck between several different titles. But then Crossy Road [Free] came along and just blew everything out of the water by being about as near a perfect mobile game as I've ever seen. The premise is simple: It's an endless Frogger, meaning you're tasked with getting your character safely across various–hazards like busy freeways, railroad track and waterways–one hop at a time. The game uses voxels so it's pixely and retro but in a nice, clean three-dimensional way. The gameis presented in an isometric viewpoint and simple taps and swipes move your character along.
It all sounds pretty basic on the surface, but it's really the details that set Crossy Road apart. For one, the number of playable characters is extensive. Your default character is a chicken (Get it? Why did the chicken crossy the road?) and as you play you can collect coins which go towards unlocking new characters through a random gumball machine process. The different characters don't really have any gameplay advantages, but they're fun to unlock and use, and certain characters actually change up the visuals in the game a bit. For example, the Frankenstein character makes the game look like an old, scratchy black and white movie reel, or the penguin which turns the world into a winter wonderland. There's a total "Gotta catch 'em all" vibe to the unlockable characters in the game.
You can tell a lot of thought went into Crossy Road being a mobile experience. As mentioned, controls are simple taps to move forwards or swipes to move left, right or backwards. The game can be played in either portrait or landscape, and switches on the fly. Needless to say, this is my new favorite "one-hand one-thumb" game. Being an endless high scoring game, leaderboards are a big deal, and Crossy Road does an awesome job here by actually printing your Game Center friends' best times right smack dab in the playing field, making it feel especially good to pass up a buddy's score.
Finally, it has to be mentioned just how well the pay model for Crossy Road is implemented. It's free to play, and you can earn the additional playable characters by collecting coins through playing or they are available for 99¢ apiece. They are in no way required, so buying one or two (or eleven) is just a nice way of getting a character you want right away and giving the developers some money for their efforts. Also, there are video ads in the game, but they are entirely opt-in. Every so often after the end of a run you'll be given the option to watch a video ad for some extra coins. It's totally not in your face and easily ignored, but it's also a nice way to earn some extra cash should you want to. This game should be the poster child for how to do free to play right.
There's so many more little details in Crossy Road that are worth mentioning, but just writing about it is making me anxious to play some more so I'll just stop here. Plus it's fun to notice those details and experience all Crossy Road has to offer on your own. The game is free, so every single person who is reading this now should at the very least download and try Crossy Road, and drop by our forums for to talk about it with the developers and the community.
This week it seems like we're handing out five star reviews like it's going out of style, but all of these games are great and two of them won't even cost you a penny to play, basically ever. That's pretty awesome, right? Anyway, it's probably safe to get used to weeks like this, at least for the next couple weeks, as the end of the year is almost fully upon us.
Crossy Road - Endless Arcade Hopper, Free [Review] - Crossy Road is a simple game, but there's clearly a lot of work that went into making it one of the best 'simple' experiences that can be enjoyed. This is already the kind of game where I'm going back and forth with people for high scores, and sharing my high scores to Twitter. I've become absolutely hooked to this game, and I don't see that ending any time soon. It does a wondeful job at balancing out being accessible, and a free game that both can be played for free, but isn't necessarily afraid to try and make a little money, either. Play this game.
Vainglory for iPhone, Free [HD] - [Review] - Seeing how Vainglory is free, there’s really no reason not to check it out. However, I’d go even further and say that it’s probably the best MOBA on iOS and offers both an awesome experience for MOBA veterans while also providing an approachable avenue for novices. Simply put, you owe it to yourself to check out Super Evil Megacorp’s latest masterpiece.
XCOM®: Enemy Within, $12.99 [Review] - Sequels get a bad wrap. When you consider the benefits a prime iteration of a game or movie has going for it, its no wonder the follow up that lacks the initial reveal often disappoints. Luckily you don't have to worry about disappointment if you pick up 2k's XCOM: Enemy Within. Enemy Within has packed on a ton of features that dovetail seamlessly with it's successor.
Crystal Siege HD, $4.99 [Review] - iPad owners who love tower defense need to give Crystal Siege a shot. The blend of RPG elements with tower defense makes for a fantastic combination, one that feels rather involved. And people who don't like tower defense games might enjoy this in particular because it is so action-oriented. I'm not really sure why this is an iPad exclusive, as while the levels are really designed for the 4:3 iPad aspect ratio, some levels have scrolling elements, too. Add in some zooming or possibly tweak the levels for 16:9 aspect ratios, and it feels like this game could easily work on phones, as is the plan. Some of the detailed visuals and animations will be lost on smaller screens, sure, but I see no reason why this game can't be playable on phones. As such, people who don't own iPads will just have to wait patiently until this finally releases for iPhone, but it'll be worth the wait.
Additionally, we reviewed a few other games this week. As always, you can dig into all of our reviews by clicking here. Alternatively, you can hit up specific scores by using these links:
- 4 Stars
- 3.5 Stars
- 3 Stars
- 2.5 Stars
- 2 Stars
- 1 Star
Certainly, tower defense is a genre where it's difficult to really rock the boat too much, especially since the genre's evolution was accelerated by the fact that it was a great fit for mobile, and everyone and their mother decided to apply their take on the genre. But hey, the games are still pretty fun, and there's still the occasional title with a clever twist on the proceedings. Crystal Siege [$4.99 (HD)] from Carrot Games and FDG Entertainment tries to apply an action-RPG take on tower defense, without drifting too much into the action-RPG side of things, like Dungeon Defenders [$2.99] does. As such, this winds up being a take on the genre that does some great things for itself while not rocking the boat too much.
The game's core tower defense is nothing too shocking: place towers at specific spots, and as creeps come in range of them, they take damage. The towers can all be upgraded, and towers feature split upgrades at their third level with different effects. As well, different enhancements can be bought for them in-game. But it's the hero (sadly with only a male character option) who applies this game's unique flourish. The hero can fly around the battlefield, and use the mana that's charged up to unleash powerful magic spells that can attack enemies, trap them, or protect the crystals that the enemies are trying to steal. This mana charges up over time, but it's also possible to go into combat mode to attack enemies directly, though this all but stops mana generation, so it's best as a last resort. Players can buy items with the gold they earn for victory to buy weapons, armor, and rings, that can affect attack stats, magic and mana effectiveness, and provide benefits when in range of towers.
There are not a lot of levels in Crystal Siege, really only about 15, but each level takes about 9-10 minutes to beat. That time is fixed, too, as there is no fast-forwarding, which seems like an odd omission given that it's a feature standard to the genre, and because the levels feel so lengthy, the game could occasionally use a turbo boost. There's no ability to just freeze the action, either, so tower upgrading has to be done in the heat of battle. Considering that there's also a character to control in the middle of battle, a little chance to strategize would be welcome, too.
This is not necessarily a short game – it will likely take five or six hours to beat the campaign for the first time. Additionally, there are the three difficulties to play in each level, with the last being unlocked once the game is beaten. I do recommend playing later difficulties of levels as soon as possible, though, because while tower upgrades are limited in earlier levels, having powerful items and spells can make earlier levels extremely easy once returning to them. The fire shield was the destroyer of worlds for me, as when buffed up from certain items that boost fire magic, it can take care of enemy waves as they come in to the level.
And with items to equip and a currency to spend, that gets us into the fact that there are in-app purchases here. Don't worry, there are no $99.99 in-app purchases; the max to spend is $5.99 on 120,000 coins, which will buy incredibly powerful weapons, shields, and rings. Special item sets can also be had for $2.99-$4.99. The game does hand out coins often enough that the IAP is really only there to jump ahead to buy really powerful items. The main campaign on normal difficulty is definitely beatable without any IAP, that's for sure. The stat upgrades do help, but I don't believe they're the end-all, be-all to success. There are potions which can be used in battle, but these are so cheap that they're only minor expenses, and are great for tough missions.
The magic upgrade system is fantastic, in that each level up grants a new magic orb, which is used for the skill trees to unlock new spells. But these skill trees can be reassigned at any point without penalty, so it's possible to find the right spell loadout for any mission.
The environmental and interactive effects in each level are perhaps the hallmark of this game's level design. This is otherwise a fixed-path tower defense game, but in some levels, it's possible to close off paths by using a water pump. In one level, it's possible to melt an iceway by using a fire spell, which will also drop enemies off into the drink. This can also be mixed in with different spells. I like to use the Twister spell to drag enemies to an ice bridge, then melt it, killing several powerful enemies at once. Some levels have weapons that charge up, or limited-use items to help forestall enemy attacks. While the levels themselves have plenty of variety in terms of number of entry points and bases to protect, the environments make sure each level really feels like an individual experience.
It's the active strategization that makes Crystal Siege really feel special. I feel so much more into a battle in this game than most tower defense games. The towers offer enough variety and choice that it feels like I can use my preferred strategy to win. I like to focus on making the enemy-slowing towers as strong as possible, then using Twister to cluster a bunch of enemies together, utilizing the Flame Shield to deal loads of damage to enemies at once, with my items focused on making my fire spells as powerful as possible, and my mana economy and regeneration at such a point where I can rarely need to use a potion to refill my mana from my spell usage. But there's plenty of room for a variety of strategies.
iPad owners who love tower defense need to give Crystal Siege a shot. The blend of RPG elements with tower defense makes for a fantastic combination, one that feels rather involved. And people who don't like tower defense games might enjoy this in particular because it is so action-oriented. I'm not really sure why this is an iPad exclusive, as while the levels are really designed for the 4:3 iPad aspect ratio, some levels have scrolling elements, too. Add in some zooming or possibly tweak the levels for 16:9 aspect ratios, and it feels like this game could easily work on phones, as is the plan. Some of the detailed visuals and animations will be lost on smaller screens, sure, but I see no reason why this game can't be playable on phones. As such, people who don't own iPads will just have to wait patiently until this finally releases for iPhone, but it'll be worth the wait.
Sequels get a bad wrap. When you consider the benefits a prime iteration of a game or movie has going for it, its no wonder the follow up that lacks the initial reveal often disappoints. Luckily you don't have to worry about disappointment if you pick up 2k's XCOM: Enemy Within[$12.99]. Enemy Within has packed on a ton of features that dovetail seamlessly with it's successor.
Just in case you are new to the party, this franchise started back in 1994 and got a ridiculously fantastic reboot in 2012. A year later Enemy Within launched and now its here to monopolize the free time of the iOS strategist. XCOM games pretty much follow the same basic formula. Aliens are invading, its up to you to command a fighting force capable of resisting and repelling them. Gameplay is turn based combat heavily reliant on getting your people into cover to set up flanking maneuvers on the xeno scum. As you progress you also have an underground base of operations that you will upgrade to conduct research on alien technology, level up your troops, deploy various satellites and air craft, and in general manage the global threat.
It's an involved strategy game series that I personally love and cherish. Enemy Within has done nothing to mar my view and even with some longer than usual loading times, I was delighted throughout my time playing so far. The game is pretty large, but its a premium title and with 0 IAP, it should really appeal to the core gamers that comprise most of the XCOM fan base. The game looks fantastic on my iPad 3, and even though it's at the low end of the acceptable device list, it handles decent except for the aforementioned slow load times. Although I didn't play on an iPhone, I wouldn't be surprised if the only possible issue was load times, since the UI of the game, just like it's predecessor, is quite solid once you do get loaded in.
The thing that caught my attention the most about Enemy Within are the Mech suits, or MECs as they are called in game. Our forum thread is also a mite bit obsessed as well. I'm not sure if it's just because I love big robots, but man the cinematics got me hyped. MECs are huge, MECs are stompy with devastating melee attacks and blistering ranged attacks. They get in fights with other MECs and all of a sudden I am watching a BIG O episode SMASH BOOOM YESSSSS.
Alright. Now that I've calmed down a bit, lets take a more analytical look at MECs. You'll have to build some facilities and do some research in order to start building them. You'll also have to find 'volunteers' to undergo the 'upgrade' process. I was a little taken aback at the grim way the game explains that it would take some time to complete the amputations required to prep a soldier for a MEC suit. I mean, XCOM doesn't really pull punches when it comes to how dire the plight of their world is, but it definitely started to venture into a more Warhammer-like grimdark mood, a little more than I have seen with XCOM in the past.
So once you've come to grips with the technological terror you have created, it's time to see how this bad boy performs on the battlefield. The thing is overkill until you go head to head with enemy MECs, but I'm not complaining. With the amount of health and firepower this thing is packed with, it doesn't need cover. Let me rephrase that, it doesn't use cover. That's the balance point you kind of have to have with such a strong unit. I appreciate the tactical options having a class that ignores cover affords, and at the same time I understand that XCOM for many people is appealing for it's in depth cover and flank mechanics. Even if you do use a MEC, your non-MEC units will still be using cover, so its not a total loss of the mechanic. I really like having a MEC for covering open areas and filling spots that have awkwardly angled cover points. For me, it's not a circumvention of the system, as much as a nice little band-aid for when my squad feels a little too exposed.
Powering these behemoths is a new resource, meld. Meld is gathered as an additional objective of most missions with a time sensitive restriction. If you don't get to the meld quick, you wont be able to harvest it. Along with fueling the big rigs, meld also allows you to research various super human abilities to implant into your troops. With a bigger research tree, its more important than ever to be sure to be researching the most important stuff for your strategy and building the correct facilities. With an expanded list of rooms you can build, base management also requires a little more attention.
Some have complained that the added perks you get make the game too easy, but I still found plenty of challenge to be had in rushing through maps to get a hold of each bit of meld I could find. In all I didn't find any of the add ons of Enemy Within to be less than stellar. If you are even slightly interested in turn based games, this is not one to miss.
One of the true App Store classics is Kairosoft's 2010 release of Game Dev Story [$4.99], which was pretty much just a simple port of a game that they originally released on PC in Japan in the late '90s. It wasn't the prettiest game, nor did it have any fancy features that took advantage of iOS's capabilities. What it did have was an unparalleled gaming experience that let you create your own fictional game company and release your own fictional games. The amount of tongue-in-cheek humor and video game cultural references was incredible, and the game itself was a very satisfying simulation. The game's popularity prompted Kairosoft to release a multitude of similar simulations for mobile devices, and while many of them are quite good there's really nothing that's topped Game Dev Story.
The only time Game Dev Story has received any sort of update was way back in April of 2011 when Kairosoft added support for Game Center. That was several iOS versions ago and well before even 4-inch screens debuted with the iPhone 5 in 2012, and obviously before the newer screen sizes of the iPhone 6 models came along. Despite all that, Game Dev Story still worked just fine, although it felt woefully outdated and the visuals were especially pixelated and blurry on the larger iPhone 6 screens to the point it was almost unbearable to read.
Well yesterday Kairosoft released a new update for Game Dev Story. It fixes up those problems with resolution and at least on my iPhone 6 the text is crystal clear now. Also, while it doesn't have full-blown widescreen support, Kairosoft has added some lovely border art to the top and bottom of the screen, so it looks a lot better than it did before. Here are some comparison screens between the updated full version of the game (left) and non-updated lite version (right).
Pretty big improvement, right? I was pretty heavily obsessed with Game Dev Story ever since reviewing it way back in October of 2010, but haven't spent as much time with it in the last year or two. Now that it's received a new update and feels more modernized than before, I think I'll be diving back into it. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing really depends on how you value your free time and productivity levels. If you're also a big Game Dev Story fan definitely check out the newly-updated version, and if tragically you've never experienced the game before you'll most certainly want to rectify that immediately.
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