App Store Games of the Week

October 1st Edition

  • by Ryan Rigney
  • October 01, 2010 15:30 PM PT

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.

iPhone/iPod Touch (iPad version separate)

Originally published by Aksys Games on Nintendo's WiiWare service, BIT.TRIP BEAT is a strange but catchy melding of Pong and interactive music games like Audiosurf. Using tilt controls you’ll slide a paddle along the left side of the screen while little multi-colored bricks fly towards you in a variety of patterns. Successfully blocking one of the bricks with your paddle will cause a single electronic note to play, and it’s through this method that you’ll essentially create a techno soundtrack that sounds better or worse depending on the quality of your performance.

Headphones are definitely suggested for sessions with BIT.TRIP BEAT. Once you get into the rhythm of the music you’ll be able to predict when bricks will fly towards you. You’ll need the help, because basic pattern recognition skills and quick reflexes will be an absolute necessity once you make it to later stages, although you can ease the pressure by playing co-operatively with someone else. I love that owners of both the iPad and iPhone version can play together regardless of which device they’re using, and I think that the game’s mix of old and new will make this a game that plenty of people will be able to get into.

App Store Games of the Week

Naughty Bear
iPhone/iPod Touch

Although the recently released console version of Naughty Bear wasn't quite the critical darling it may have hoped to be, developers 505 Games have decided to give their franchise another go in the form of a violent iPhone game that’s more reminiscent of Pac-Man than its console-based big brother. As in Naughty Bear's console iterations, you play as a particularly, well, naughty teddy bear who has recently been denied an invitation to a party thrown by the other local bears. Naturally, the only way to rectify this situation is to run around a maze, pick up weapons, and brutally murder as many bears as possible.

Naughty Bear is a great looking game by iPhone standards, but I found that the swipe controls used to direct the bear’s movement are in most cases unresponsive and frustrating. There is an option for tilt controls, but those too are pretty clunky. I liked the crazy animations that play out whenever you catch up to a fleeing bear, and the game is definitely an interesting take on Pac-Man’s classic arcade formula -- a formula that hasn't seen too much innovation outside of 2007's Pac-Man CE. Even so, as was the case with the console version of Naughty Bear, the iPhone iteration is just a bit too clunky and unpolished to really recommend.

App Store Games of the Week

iPhone/iPod Touch (camera required)

"Augmented Reality" games are often nothing more than bare bones tech demos centered around some sort of gimmicky camera implementation, so it's interesting to see ARDefender use augmented reality as a way to enhance an already solid shooter. After printing out a special slip of paper from the developer's website, you'll have to lay the sheet out on a flat surface and then boot up the ARDefender app. Upon pointing your iPhone or iPod Touch camera at the sheet, a 3D tower will appear on-screen as though it were really right in front of you and you'll be tasked with defending it from waves of malevolent bugs.

Leaving real life items like staplers or other office supplies on the surface that you're playing ARDefender on doesn't disrupt gameplay, so it's fun to see little virtual bugs scurrying around and over your pencils as you tilt and touch your device to zap them. Unfortunately, it doesn't take much to disrupt the illusion of the tower. Tilting your device too rapidly will often cause the tower to blink out of view for a second, and God forbid someone wave a hand in front of the camera during play. The tech isn't flawless, but it's certainly impressive and has quickly become one of the first things I show non-iPhone gamers when trying to convince them what the device is capable of. If you want a novel little shooter with an interesting hook, this is definitely worth the price of entry.

App Store Games of the Week

Texting of the Bread
iPhone/iPod Touch (iPad version separate)

Taking obvious inspiration from Sega’s cult hit The Typing of the Dead, the gingerbread-themed Texting of the Bread is both educational and entertaining. Just as Typing of the Dead sought to improve players’ typing abilities on a standard computer keyboard, Texting of the Bread aims to turn you into a master of the iPhone’s touch keyboard. You play as a minigun-toting girl whose milky ammo is generated from the cow strapped to her back. Every enemy has a word displayed above their head, and you’ll have to completely type that word out on the on-screen keyboard to destroy them before they successfully complete their cross-screen trek. Milk bullets and your adeptness with typing will be your only weapons against the hordes of incoming zombie gingerbread men.

As an iPod Touch owner, I rarely use the iOS on-screen keyboard and have thus been pretty awkward with it in the rare instances that I did have to type something up. After only about 20 levels of Texting of the Bread’s arcade mode, however, I can now type out a typo-free paragraph at a speed that far surpasses my texting ability on my hideous LG Script’s physical keyboard. The game isn’t just for those looking to brush up on their texting prowess, either –- each level is based around a particular theme, and often the game’s creators get pretty clever with the words they’ll throw at you. Plenty of modes and surprisingly funny writing make this a weirdly enjoyable piece of unexpected "edutainment."

App Store Games of the Week

Catan HD
iPad only (iPhone/iPod Touch version separate)

First published in Germany as Die Siedler von Catan in 1995, The Settlers of Catan has gone on to become a board game with worldwide renown, and this new iPad version is just the latest in a long list of video game adaptations (including an iPhone version released in October of last year). For those unfamiliar with the board game, Catan is a strategy game in which players compete to build settlements and capture resources on a small island. The game is loved by many for its somewhat short learning curve and mechanics that inspire as much cooperation as competitive spirit.

I really enjoyed Catan's iPhone version, but multiplayer was essentially a no-go because of screen's size constraints. This iPad version certainly rectifies that, and within minutes of loading up the game for the first time I had successfully coerced a few friends into a 4-player game. Developers USM have completely nailed the UI, so if you're a board game lover, there's no reason you won't love this.

App Store Games of the Week