App Store Games of the Week: April 23rd Edition
- April 23, 2010 11:06 AM PST
It's a well-documented fact that hundreds of apps and games hit the iTunes App Store each week, but how many of these pocket-sized endeavors are worth your hard earned cash? Each week, we pick out the best (or simply the most notable) of the bunch for our App Store Games of the Week.
The newest release from Halfbrick Studios is nothing like the developer's first iPhone game, Blast Off. Unlike Blast Off, which is a fully-featured, arcade-style puzzle game, Fruit Ninja is one of those quick, simple games that works better on the iPhone than any other platform. Fruit Ninja's premise is based around the well known fact that ninjas hate fruit. Fruit flies up from the bottom of the screen, and you'll have to swipe across your iDevice to give that nasty mess of seeds the slashing it deserves.
Even after I had played Fruit Ninja enough to be able to write a review, I found myself booting the game up occasionally for a quick go at a high score. The game is fast-paced and simple (the only way to fail is to miss three fruits or accidentally slice a bomb), and the inclusion of online global leaderboards adds a little extra incentive to boot up the game when I'd otherwise be bored. I'm an especially big fan of the little sensei that pops up to spew random fun facts about fruit in between rounds. Now I know to check the navel of oranges. Kinda weird, but that alone was worth the $0.99 price tag.
Dark Void Zero
Gamers who regularly purchase games from Nintendo's DSiWare service have already gotten a chance to check out Dark Void Zero, but for the rest of the world, this new and oh-so-slightly improved version of the 8-bit "demake" is definitely worth draining an iTunes gift card on. The game, which is a reimagining of Dark Void as a faux NES "classic", executes on the 8-bit theme perfectly with a surprisingly workable eight-way directional control scheme and an unforgiving difficulty setting that's reminiscent of old Mega Man games.
Every aspect of the game has been designed to feel like a classic Nintendo game. The soundtrack from the console version of Dark Void has even been "demade" into 8-bit chiptune form -- a stroke of genius that really adds to the game's retro authenticity. Weirdly enough, although the console version of Dark Void was supposed to be the main focus for Capcom, this little side project turned out to be an arguably better game.
iPhone/iPod Touch (iPad version coming soon)
From members of the creative teams behind games like Wild Arms and Final Fantasy comes Chaos Rings, an impressive JRPG exclusive to the iPhone. With gameplay designed from the ground up specifically for Apple's device and graphics that push the iPhone's technological boundaries, Chaos Rings has found itself the center of plenty of portable hype -- and for good reason. A random battle system that should be familiar to fans of Final Fantasy breaks up text-driven bits of the story, which follows one of four pairs of fighters on their path to a tournament that they've been forced to participate in.
Graphically, Chaos Rings seems to be pulling most of its influence from the original Playstation era. Hand-drawn environments compliment the 3D character models, which are shown off during battles. I can't say that this is the best game for short play sessions, but the battles never got old for me, and the story seemed notably stronger than what other recent Square Enix entries on the App Store have had to offer. The best thing that I can say about Chaos Rings is that, unlike other ports of RPGs that have been brought to the iPhone, (like the original Final Fantasy remakes or Korean cell phone games like Zenonia and Across Age) this is a game that was made for the platform, and it shows.
In 2009, Jodi and Jacques Ropert started Barefoot Explorers, a game studio with a focus on using games to help the environment. Through a partnership with Trees for the Future (read more about that fine organization here) their goal is to plant three trees for every copy of their latest game, Panda Hero, sold on the App Store. Even without taking its admirable environmental goals into account, it's worth noting that Panda Hero is still an extremely enjoyable combination of a tilt-controlled, top-down adventure and a panda pet simulator, designed for kids but fun for adults as well.
The core of Panda Hero involves tilting the iPhone to control your explorer around 2D environments with the goal of gathering coins, freeing cuddly animals from cages, and defeating villainous poachers in a variety of ways. I thought it was pretty hilarious that snow leopards are little helper animals and snakes are bad guys (I guess less cuddly animals deserve to burn with the rainforests), but this is obviously a kid's game, so I'll give it a pass. All manners of toys and food can be purchased for your pet panda using the coins earned during the adventure portion of the game, so if you've ever wanted to be the proud owner of a portable pet panda, this might be your best bet.
The Pinball HD
The Pinball HD is a combination of the three other pinball boards previously released by developers Gameprom: The Deep, Wild West, and Jungle Style. Controls are simple, yet effective -- touching on the right hand side of the screen activates the right flipper, and vice-versa. There are no gimmicky tilt controls, and the only other time you'll need to touch the screen is when you drag a finger on the plunger thingy to launch a ball. There are detailed info screens set up for each of the three boards to inform players about the best ways to get high scores or complete "objectives," so those who want to get the full experience out of each board should have no trouble doing so.
Holding the iPad in landscape mode shows the whole board in a fixed point of view, but I personally preferred the portrait display mode, in which the camera pans all around the board, in and out of the attractive 3D sets. The ambient sound effects of the board are spot on: everything from the sound the plunger makes when it launches the ball to the various blingy, ringing sounds of the board convincingly duplicate an arcade atmosphere. I can't say such great things about the framerate, however, as it seems to be a bit spotty on a couple of the levels. If the physics system was slightly improved and the framerate issue eliminated, this would be one of the best portable pinball experiences out there. Let's hope for an update.