Sea Stars

This bright and colorful game from Hothead Games Inc. is an uncovered beauty in the app world.  This Jetpack Joyride-esque game has simple mechanics and wonderful esthetics which provide an engaging experience thats perfect for car rides, commercial breaks, or watching that boring chick flick with your girlfriend.  Its achievement system and customizability add a great replay value and the adorable little animals will leave you smiling as they flip through the air. Seastars2This game is very easy to play.  Simply hold down your finger to make your creature dive to the ocean floor and release it to make him spring to the surface and fly into the air.  Collect coins by hitting them in the air or underwater, which can be used to buy new characters and powerups.  Watch out for jellyfish, hermit crab rockets, sea urchins, and icebergs because if you hit one, the round is over.  Swim into a star and you will be picked up by one of four helpers, like Dr. Scuttles the crab. Each helper the way your character moves in a different way for a short time.  The achievement system is very well thought out, in that there are three available at any given time which give varying amounts of stars towards leveling up.  Achievements get harder as you get closer to leveling up, starting with simple tasks like jumping 15 times and get very difficult like swimming 6000 meters in one game.  The difficult achievements can be frustrating but they are very rewarding when completed. Seastars3 There are a couple of beefs I have with this game.  For one, There are no in-game leaderboards to compare your feats with your friends or even personal statistics. There should at least be records of your longest swim, overall distance traveled, and other stats like that.  There is a record for longest run but it isn’t readily available in the game, it has to be accessed in the gamecenter app.  The second problem I have with this game is the in-app purchases.  I understand that there has to be some way to make money in a free game, but it costs 4-6 dollars just to buy one locked character.  The cost should be more like 4 dollars to unlock all of the characters.  Very stingy if you ask me.
The Good

  • Excellent aesthetics
  • Simple mechanics
  • Good replay value

The Bad

  • No stats/ Leaderboards
  • Steep prices for in-app purchases

Rating
7.5/10
A good time wasting game that looks good and plays well with plenty of content to work towards completing.
-Harry

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Pathpix

Are you ever struck with the need to connect dots? Some of you may have heard of the game Flow, where you are tasked with connecting the same color dots in a grid to complete the puzzle. Imagine if you could solve a puzzle like that, zoom out and find that a picture has been created out of all the dots you have connected. Pathpix is this game.

When you start a puzzle there is a large grid with different colored dots with numbers scattered throughout it. The numbers are the amount of tiles your path must take up on its way to its twin. For example a green 6 must have path 6 tiles long connecting it to another green 6. To make things a little harder they introduce red walls to stop you from going certain directions. As you complete these paths you can see that when you zoom out a pixel art image is being formed. This makes completing the puzzle a much more rewarding experience.

IMG_1184           Pathpix2           IMG_1187

The learning curve is quick, you start with a laughable 16×16 puzzle but after a while you will be ready to take on the most daunting of 64×64 murals. This game feels great to play. There is a point when you get good enough that your mind thinks in Pathpix; you see the numbers on the screen and connect them with the speed of a professional typist, knowing exactly where to go. It’s almost therapeutic and I’m not joking when I say that after a long session of play you will be connecting those dots in your head and could even end up dreaming about them. Talk about a game getting in your head.

Another great thing about Pathpix is that realistically you will probably never run out of puzzles to do. The first version of the game that I played was Pathpix Pro, which had a whopping 300 puzzles to complete. If you do complete all of these don’t fret as there are six other Pathpix titles, from Pathpix Zen to their holiday themed Pathpix Xmas each with a unique set of puzzles.

The Good:

  • Tons of puzzles
  • Satisfying and almost therapeutic gameplay
  • You can admire the neat pictures you made

The Bad

  • Almost all of the games cost money
  • It can get into your head

Rating

8/10

Pathpix is a satisfying puzzler, which defines its own genre of pixel art games. I would be thoroughly impressed if you could finish them all.

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Sky Burger

The King of food themed games is here, and ironically enough it actually is about burgers. I first played this game a few years back and had some great feelings of nostalgia when I re-downloaded it, though I was disappointed to find that they had added a few video ads. Following a somewhat familiar type of food stacking game the objective is to pile patties and condiments to ridiculous heights while avoiding the unwanted ones. You may have seen it in the form of something else like ice cream scoops or sandwiches but Nimblebit has really taken this type of game to the next level with Sky Burger.

By introducing specific orders like one consisting of 24 slices of cheese and some pickles, they keep it fresh every time you start the game. As you pile up desired ingredients your burger increases in cost which you get a percent of in tip depending on how many condiments you drop or wrong items you put on your burger. By gaining money you get promoted to higher ranks going from cashier to CEO, which betters the look of your shop. This system of ranking up and about a dozen achievements give you something to come back for.

SkyBurger2

Another cool feature of the game is the occasional “Sky Burger” level in which there are no holds bar to what you can and can’t grab, you just have to avoid the top bun which ends it. These are the real money-makers and a good burst of excitement as you can try to break your previous high stack score. Whether it be how crisp and fresh the lettuce looks or the thought of what a burger with 24 consecutive slices of cheese would taste like, these levels never fail to get my salivary glands working.

The game offers two types of controls, one where you tilt the phone to make the stack go in the direction you want and another where you drag the bottom bun to one side or another. I highly recommend you go with the touch option, as it offers more control. One problem I have with the game is that if you are using touch mode it is very easy to accidentally pause the game by mistakenly tapping the center of the screen. Another is that by the time you reach the level of Manager you’ve already done all of the orders more than a few times. However a comprehensive statistics page which keeps track of your stats helps redeem the few problems.

The Good

  • Tantalizing burger stacking fun with creative orders
  • Ranking system and statistics page
  • Sky Burger levels to challenge your high score

The Bad

  • Accidental Pauses
  • Occasional video ads
  • Levels get repetitive as the game goes on

Rating

7/10

A refreshing spin on a classic food stacking game, with enough to work for to keep you playing for a while.

-Jake

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100 Balls

Some would dare to say that 100 Balls is the new Flappy Bird… I  have to disagree. It’s not nearly mindless enough to attract the hordes of brain dead fad followers that hopped on the Flappy Bird train. I’ll be the first to admit that I was one of them, but jeez did we take it a little over board. No, 100 balls is a simple game of precision and patience that will have you obsessing over each successive high score.

Game play is as follows. You start with 100 balls suspended in the middle of the screen. The goal is to drop the balls from their resting position, using the touch of a finger, into a series of rotating cups so that you don’t lose any balls or miss any cups. Each ball that falls into a cup is worth one point. As the game 100ballsprogresses, the cups begin to change color. Balls that fall into colored cups take on that color, and earn you more points each time you use that ball from then on. If a cup passes and you do not land any balls in it, you lose the cup. If you drop a ball and it misses the cup, you lose the ball. The cups speed up you gain points. That’s the game, easy peasy, anyone could play it. It’s so simple that you might wonder how you could ever lose. However, you inevitably will lose, at which point you’ll grunt and start again.

Pro Tips: If you want to get beat your high score, keep these guys in mind.

  • Don’t get caught empty handed. You only have 30 free balls at a time. The balls that you drop into cups are returned to the reservoir when the rotating cup arrives at the top of the screen. Beware the trap of using too many balls! Especially when you’re near the end of the game and you have less to work with, be sure to save at least one ball for each cup that comes around so that you don’t lose them.
  • Rack up the colored balls. Each new colored bucket provides balls that are worth more points. Once you’re comfortable with simple game play, try focusing your efforts on filling the buckets with the newest colors. You’ll find that high score a little easier to attain when you earn 8 points a ball rather than 1.
  • Sacrifice cups before balls. When the cups are moving really quick and you still have all eight, you might get overwhelmed and carelessly toss your balls in hopes of filling them. Slow down, even if it means losing a cup or two. It’s better to consolidate your efforts on few cups and keep all the balls than sloppily fill all eight and lose your reserves.

 

The Good

  • Fast-paced so that you won’t get bored trying to beat your high score
  • Tap to play keeps it simple
  • You will definitely get more than 12 points, unlike Flappy Bird

The Bad

  • High score games may cause insomnia
  • The original is only on the App Store. If you want it for an Android device, I suggest 100 Balls + (link provided below)

Rating

6/10

I love challenging myself, all I need is a good game that can remember my high score. Here we have it.

-Kenny

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Bubble Witch 2 Saga

From the makers of Candy Crush, here’s your latest iteration of mobile crack cocaine. Bubble Witch Saga 2 is proof that King has perfected the process of creating hopeless app addicts.

Step 1

Revamp an old game that most people are familiar with. Just as Candy Crush was a sugary knock off of Bejeweled, Bubble Witch is that oldie where you shoot colored balls at other colored balls. You can bounce them off the walls or the top, but the goal is to eliminate all the balls by making monochromatic strings of three or more. No one knows the origin of this game. I first saw it on a Hoyle card games cd-rom for Windows 98, it went by Racer Tracer back then and you can be sure it wasn’t the first of it’s kind.

bubble 2

Step 2

Combine impossible levels with limited tries. This is where King clearly invested in R&D. Their scientists have somehow formulated the perfected arrangement of easy and hard levels so that as soon as your confidence is high and the game is fun, you hit the level that cannot be beaten. You know it can’t be beaten because you’ve tried a hundred times. You waste your five lives and then wait the thirty five minutes for more lives. And then you get impatient so you shed your shame and ask all your Facebook friends to get the game so you can wallow in the addiction together and send each other lives. Finally, the scientists step in again because they know your breaking point. When the sane part of your mind decides, “this is the last game, I’m quitting forever if I don’t win this game,” by some divine intervention the balls fall into place and you are allowed to move on to the easy levels that rebuild your confidence. Now that you’ve afflicted all your friends with the curse, the cycle starts over.

Step 3

Create some cutesy, colorful theme that appeals to wide audiences. The game itself is enough to keep you playing, but bright colors and obnoxious characters are necessary to attract the target audiences. Who cares about the theme anyway? My mom does, because she likes to empathize with the cute young witch. And my baby cousin who can’t talk, but somehow owns an iPad, needs to save the puppies from the scary bubbles. Brilliant marketing by King, knowing that my mom’s disposable income and lack of Facebook are the perfect combo for unnecessary in-app spending on additional lives.

The Good

  • Enough levels to keep you busy
  • Classic gameplay that combines skill and luck
  • You get to feel like a little girl playing a girly girl game

The Bad

  • Limited lives means you can’t binge
  • You get to feel like a little girl playing a girly girl game

Rating

4/10

I would wholeheartedly recommend you don’t get this game. But I would have said the same thing about Candy Crush and we all know how big that game got. It’s simple and addicting and anyone can play it. The theme makes me want to puke, but to each his own, I guess.

-Kenny

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Flappy Golf

Flappy Golf is perhaps the only good thing to rise from the Flappy Bird craze that plagued the app store for weeks. Originally it started as a joke with Noodlecake Studios taking the courses from their already successful Super Stickman Golf 2 (another great game), and having it feature a flapping golf ball. Its original and addicting gameplay soon attracted enough interest to warrant its own full length game.

A Typical Flappy Golf Level

A Typical Flappy Golf Level

The objective is to get the ball into the hole in as few flaps as possible, by tapping the buttons to either flap to the left or to the right. You must sink the ball under a certain number to earn gold stars, and if you have what it takes after you’ve completed the game, superstars. It sounds simple, but add in 52 courses full of buzz saws, lasers, and sticky pink goop and you will find that true control over the ball takes some serious skill.  Earning all the superstars is an undertaking that only the most talented and determined flappers will complete, and the feeling of accomplishment after doing so felt on par with some of the other major achievements of my life. That was until they released 20 more courses with an update, which I am still working to beat.

The Online Multiplayer Menu

The Online Multiplayer Menu

A large amount of unlocks and a solid multiplayer makes it a game that will last. Multiplayer mode offers a whole new mechanic to the game by switching the objective to be a race to the hole where you can play with up to eight people over Bluetooth or four people over wifi. Additionally by winning matches you earn points to unlock different balls and trails, giving you something to work for.

While this game is a gem, it does have its flaws. For one there is an ad in the bottom center of the screen that is always there during game play. While one can’t complain too much because the game is free, it would be nice to at least have the option to pay a dollar to make it go away. Similarly the first hole you play after opening the game each time will have a perfectly timed surprise ad pop up right as you make your first flap so you click it almost every time. While these are annoying it doesn’t take too much away from the gameplay.

The Good

  • Tons of content
  • Original concept, and good gameplay
  • Strong Multiplayer

The Bad

  • Permanent ad and surprise pop ups

Rating

9/10

This game is a hidden gem with a creative and original concept with plenty of content and unlocks to keep you playing.

-Jake

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Blendoku

Def. Blendoku (noun) – a colorful puzzle game – of the latin “Blend” and Japanese “Sudoku” 

Blendoku is a puzzle game similar to sudoku, but rather than placing numbers into boxes you’re placing different colors. You are provided a few preplaced squares , but you must fill in the rest from a color bank so that the end result is a gradient from color to color to color. Five hundred levels means the game has a healthy shelf life, and varying degrees of difficulty will keep all but the trained artist challenged.

Blendoku Level

Blendoku is prime for your short wait situations: standing at the bus stop, waiting for your water to boil, or that awkward elevator ride with the guy who starts terrible chit chat if you look up from your phone for an instant. Easy levels shouldn’t take more than thirty seconds while the hard levels have taken me up to five minutes. Don’t feel too proud of yourself when you fly through the first fifty stages, soon enough you’ll be facing thirteen indiscernible shades of brown and a headache. Depending how generous you’re feeling, this game could be termed “educational”. Do you have any idea what the mix of teal and maroon looks like? I do. Thanks, Blendoku, for my first art lesson since the fourth grade.
If somehow you manage to defeat this game and are hungry for more palette mixing, download Bendoku. Made by the same two guys behind Blendoku, it’s their Benjamin Moore sponsored revamp. Same game, new levels, shameless corporate advertising.

The Good

  • Bountiful levels
  • Varying difficulty
  • Beautiful colors

The Bad

  • Some levels are repetitive
  • Master levels are difficult on a phone screen (intended for tablet)

Rating 

6/10

Simple, creative, thoughtful. A puzzle game that doesn’t demand much but will keep the user entertained.

-Kenny

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Stickman Soccer

With all of the hype surrounding the World Cup, its no wonder this game rose towards the top of the App Store charts. One of Robert Szeleney’s series of  “Stickman (Insert Sport Here)” games, this is the first one by him that I’ve ever played. Upon starting my first game I appreciated the simple mechanics and controls, opting for the manual option as opposed to a simplified auto option where you only control passing and shooting, which was much like driving a car without arms. The game plays like a less sophisticated FIFA which makes it perfect for a mobile game. It played fluidly and free of glitches and after a couple games was quite easy to control. While you can start a season playing with the same team for multiple games I think that for long term playability there needs to be something to work towards such as unlocking teams or custom balls through winning or leveling up. For me this is usually the distinction from something being a good game or a great game.

Gameplay Screenshot

Screenshot of Gameplay

Another thing I found myself wanting was multiplayer. Being a simple sports game it lends itself perfectly to head to head play, whether it be Bluetooth with your buddy or online multiplayer. Despite these areas of potential improvement I appreciated that they didn’t shove ads in your face. They offer a fun second game mode called “Street Soccer” which has a smaller field and team as well as a fence that stops the ball from going out of bounds, however you have to watch three ads to unlock it. While this was a little annoying it was nowhere near as irritating as would have been if this feature was an in-app purchase, which I appreciated. All said and done if you have a 3-minute window to waste time Stickman Soccer is definitely worth the 99 cents.

The Good

  • Simple controls and fluid gameplay
  • Easy to pick up and play for a few minutes
  • No obtrusive ads or in-app purchases

The Bad

  • No long term objectives besides season play
  • No multiplayer
  • No customization of teams or balls

Rating

6.5/10

A solid soccer game with simple mechanics and playability, but lacking the depth and multiplayer to make it an outstanding game.

-Jake

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