games · ios · ipad · iphone · puzzle · ustwogames

Monument Valley: Forgotten Shores, Ida’s (RED) Dream Review

Monument Valley is a 3D puzzle game from UsTwoGames that takes you on a visual journey with geometry art based on the styling of M.C. Escher.  You travel fanatically designed monuments with the game’s lead character, a little girl by the name of Princess Ida.

Monument Valley ($3.99) was originally released for iOS devices on March 12.  The game was also subsequently released on Android devices and the Amazon Kindle.  With only 10 levels, the first edition of Monument Valley was visually impressive and challenged you to look at each beautifully rendered level on multiple levels to help Ida navigate her way around each monument.  I really enjoyed playing Monument Valley, but I felt just as I really got lost in the art, the characters and the story, the game was over.

This November, just eight months after releasing the original, UsTwo released two add-on packs; Forgotten Shores as a $1.99 in-app purchase (IAP) to the original game and Ida’s (RED) Dream, a $0.99 IAP. 

Totem is back to help the Princess in Forgotten Shores

Forgotten Shores, released on November 12, adds eight new delightful levels to Monument Valley in which you are reunited with Princess Ida and Totem.  The levels are still interactive 3D works of art.  The difficulty of the new levels is balanced and delivers a mentally stimulating puzzle that is not overwhelmingly difficult.  Oh, and you still must deal with the pesky Crow People.

Ida’s (RED) Dream, the second IAP released on November 23, is billed on the Monument Valley website as “One final chapter to fight AIDS.”  100% of the proceeds from this $0.99 IAP level goes to (RED) to help fight for an HIV/AIDS free world.  Ida’s (RED) Dream is available for a limited time (December 7, 2014), and I encourage you to buy it while you can.

Taken together, Forgotten Shores and Ida’s (RED) Dream offer players nine new levels to explore and enjoy.  As you play, you get drawn into Ida’s world and her mission to return the stolen geometry to the various monuments.  As with the first game, there was one point in Forgotten Shores where I actually drew in a sharp breath and was saddened by what happened.  Not many games on iOS today have that kind of connection between character and player.

My two favorite levels have to be Forgotten Shores Appendix i The Chasm and Ida’s (RED) Dream.  I like both of these levels for different reasons. In The Chasm, I empathize with the silent princess when all hope appears lost and she is given the opportunity to escape.  Without spoiling it for future players, there is a collective sigh of relief near the end of the first room of The Chasm.  In Ida’s (RED) Dream, I feel as if all of the elements that make a great game come together: the colors of each level, the details in the architecture, the difficulty of the levels and the reward of completing them, the sound effects and last, but definitely not the least, the soothing background music that sets the tone for the chapter.

Things can get twisted around…
…and turned upside down quickly!


I’m not usually in favor of IAPs because they have become synonymous with power-up, “coins” or other “resources” necessary to play and win levels in “freemium” games.  But these IAPs are different.  They add levels, which you own outright, and can play and enjoy over and over again.  They continue the story of the characters you get attached too. Forgotten Shore and Ida’s (RED) Dream clearly demonstrates the high production value craftsmanship that goes into a game that you will remember long after playing it.

Monument Valley is available now and requires an iPad 2 and iPhone 4 or later to play.  Versions are also available for Google Android and Amazon Kindle devices.

ea · ea games · games · ios · popcap

Plants vs. Zombies 2 Review

The wait for Plants vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time is finally over and is ready for you to download to your favorite iOS device now!

As the name implies, Plants vs. Zombies 2 (PvZ2) is the follow on sequel to PopCaps wildly popular Plants vs Zombies game.  In this tower defense game, you control an army of plants defending your yard from the attacking zombie horde.  (Note, I’m not a fan of zombies, but these zombies and the plants as well, are of the cute variety and not scary at all.)

“Free to Play”

Unlike the original game, PvZ2 is a “freemium” game, meaning that the game is free to download and play, however, there are many in app purchases that cost money.  I really don’t like freemium games because most games of this type start out easy enough, but after a few levels, they become increasingly difficult and you have to start paying real money to move up in the game.  The good news about PvZ2 is that in my experience after playing the game for a weekend is that you don’t have to buy any power ups to defeat levels and move on to the next level.  While you don’t have to buy any upgrades, I did purchase one upgrade – the $3.99 extra seed tray.  It was an upgrade that I purchased with coins in the original and I wanted to have that same ability in the sequel.

Game Play

New locations spice up game play.  Crazy Dave has also added new power ups to help fight zombies.

If you’ve played Plants vs Zombies you already know how to play PvZ2.  The basic game mechanics are the same.  In PvZ2 however, you are in control of which board you play, and to some degree, what order they are played in.  Once you’ve completed the required missions, you can replay the boards to earn stars, keys, and other power ups to help you along the way.  You collect stars to move on to the next level.  In PvZ2, there are four level, three are playable now, and the fourth one is kind of coming soon teaser.  You collect keys to unlock doorways on the board that open up other playable games and gain access to new plants or power ups like extra plant food slots. (More about plant food later.)

Once you’ve won the level, play these mini games to collect stars to get to the next level.

Unlike the original, PvZ2’s mini games are built right into the main game.  Once you have completed the necessary boards in a level, you need to go back and replay some boards to collect stars.  You use your collected stars to unlock the next level; or you can pay $4.99 as an in app purchase to skip directly to the new level.  This dynamic can be challenging as my younger daughter tells me, but if you put a little time an effort into beating these mini game/challenge levels, you can win without having to buy power ups.

Choose your plants.  Use In App purchases to get popular plants from the original game.

While I am glad that you can play PvZ2 without having to purchase anything, I am annoyed that you have to purchase some of my favorites plants from the original game that were included for no extra charge, such as the Snow Pea ($3.99), the Jalapeño ($2.99), Squash ($2.99) and Torchwood ($3.99).

Collect start to unlock the time portal to the next level.

Don’t want to collect stars? It’ll cost you to advance right away.

Power Ups and New Mechanics

In the original buy-it-once-and-you-get-everything Plants vs. Zombies, you purchased the game and that’s it. You’re done.  There is nothing else to buy that costs real money. In PvZ2, PopCap has changed this.  There are four new power ups that add a new game mechanic to PvZ.

The first is Plant Food.  Plant food is something you can collect while battling zombies or purchase with coins that you pick up along the way.  If you don’t have 1,000 coins, no problem.  You can just do an in app purchase to buy more.  You can also use those game coins, either collected or purchased, to buy more uses of the other power ups: Power Pinch, Power Toss, and Power Zap.  These power ups, provided by Crazy Dave, do just they sound like.  Power Pinch allows you to use a two finger pinch attack on zombies to pop their heads off.  Power Toss allows you to pick up zombies and then flick them off the game board.  Lastly, Power Zab allows you to electrocute the zombies and burn them up in their tracks.  When you activate a power up you only get a few seconds to use them.  They are great for getting out of a jam when you are trying to fortify your defenses and the dreaded huge wave of zombies message appears on screen.  My advice is to use them sparingly as you will need more coins to recharge the power ups and if you don’t have enough, you can always get more coins via, yup you guessed it, an in app purchase.  My advice is to use them sparingly.  If you are thinking a move or two ahead in the game, you can get “buy” without them.

Protect Your Privacy

Keep your data private

In today’s day and age with the NSA snorting up all sorts of personal and private data about us, any little thing you can do to protect your privacy is a good thing.  Tucked away in the settings for PvZ2 is the setting for “Sharing Usage Data.”  Defaulted to “Enabled”, this option allows PvZ2 to pass along your game playing usage data to EA.  EA’s in game verbiage says that the date won’t be shared, and that may be true, but I’d rather just turn off the option all together.

Summary

Plants vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time is a good game that extends the fun of the original into new worlds, levels, and game play.  The game is free to download, but you’ll need to watch out for in app purchases.  If you have little ones, it might be a good idea to turn on the parental controls features of iOS and disabling in app purchases of any kind.  I’ve done this for my kid’s iPod touch handhelds and I don’t have to worry about coin buying sprees while I’m at work.

The game play is easy to learn and master and the replay value is there for a few replays.  After I have played a board three or four times I’m pretty much ready to move on to the next board or level.  The animation of the plants and zombies is still cartoons that gives the game a cute an innocent feel that won’t make you rethink your decision to allow younger child to play.

If you liked the original game then you will like PvZ2.  If you are new to the PvZ world you won’t have to have played the original to get into and enjoy the sequel.

Plants vs. Zombies is available as a free download now.  It is also a universal binary which means that the one download will work on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.

games

This Post is Not a Rant (But It Could Have Been)

This post is not a rant about freemium games, in app purchases, or ads in games.

Oh, it was.  I was on a roll about how annoying freemium games are, games that are free to download, install, and play and then encourage you to purchase power ups, new levels or show you an ad exactly at the wrong moment.

I was about to go off on Rovio for Angry Birds: Friends.  I’m competitive and pitting my bird flinging skills against my friends and family is an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

But the ads when you reset a level, and now the inclusion of new video ads, really put me over the top and I was about to give both barrels to Rovio for not giving me an in app purchase way to get rid of the ads…until I found out that they did.

So, this is a much tamer post to simply say that if you enjoy playing Angry Birds: Friends, and want to get rid of the ads, all you need to do is do an in app purchase for the gold coin pack that costs $2.99.

That’s it.  For a reasonable $2.99 you can disable the ads.  Hopefully if enough fans pay the $2.99 that will give the developers enough bird seed to keep making great Rovio games for us.

You can download Angry Birds: Friends for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch from the App Store (link).

amazon · android · app st · apple · ea games · games · google · ios

Real Racing 3 Will Be Free, Multi-platform on Feb 28

Electronic Arts will be launching Real Racing 3 for free on February 28 for Apple iOS and Google Android smartphones and tablets as well as in the Amazon App Store.

From the Firemonkeys Forums:

“Today we announced Real Racing 3 will be free. And yes, Real Racing 3 was designed from the ground up to be a free to play experience. We are so excited about this game and wanted it to be accessible to everyone so we didn’t want there to be any barriers to entry. This accessibility is also what drives the awesome new Time Shifted Multiplayer feature, in that you can play competitive multiplayer with anyone any time, and they don’t need to be online with you at the same time.” 

“At launch we have 46 licensed vehicles covering 3 classes, a 22 car grid, real world tracks, 8 varied event types and 900+ events. This means hundreds of hours of gameplay for free making this one of the most expansive games ever on mobile. We plan to continue to add more free and exciting content with every update.”

Bloomberg has this to add:

“Electronic Arts will appeal to a wider audience of casual players by making the “Real Racing 3” multiplayer game free, said Nick Earl, the company’s senior vice president for mobile and social game development.” 

“Electronic Arts Inc. will offer free downloads of its newest “Real Racing” title as the second- largest U.S. video-game publisher works to draw the increasing number of gamers using mobile devices.”

The draw, I think, for this game, is the offline multiplayer mode that will allow you to race against your friends at different times.  Might be worth a test drive.  I’m not a big racing game fan, even though I own both Real Racing HD and Real Racing 2 HD.  (I bought them when they were on sale in the iOS App Store.)

app store · apple · games · ios · ipad · ipad mini · iphone · ipod touch · microsoft · playstation · sony · xbox

Karateka Returns to Delight a New Generation of Heroes

Back in the mid-1980’s I was introduced to the Apple //e and a I fell in love with computers and technology.  The first real game that I played back in 1984, after Apple Presents…Apple, was Karateka.

For those of you who don’t remember, or may not have been around back then, Katateka is game focusing around an evil warlord who has captured the princess and the tasks falls on you to save her.  Pretty straight forward.

Fast-forward to 2012 and Karateka has been reborn on the iOS, PlayStation, XBox Live, and Steam.  The game has been updated to run on today’s popular gaming platforms and looks amazing all the while staying true to it’s 8-bit Apple //e roots.

This time around, you must still save the princess, however, you are given three warriors with which to save her: the warrior, the monk, and the brute.  You battle your way into the warlord’s fortress, fight his minions, battle his hawk, and then fight him to save your true love.

After finding Karateka on the Apple iOS App Store, I immediately purchased the game and started playing on my iPhone until the battery died.  Then I picked up my iPad and kept playing.

Gameplay is simple and easy to learn.  In combat, you have two moves: block and attack.  The controls are pretty easy to master.  You tap the screen to block an attack and you tap the screen to attack.  New in this version of the game there is the ability to double-tap the screen to use a special move that allows you to stun your opponent and unleash a powerful combo attack that shaves a good amount of hit points off his health meter.

I found the new Karateka true to it’s 1980’s original.  Yes, the game has been updated with new graphics and new characters, but at it’s core, it’s still the same game that I loved as a boy.  Personally, I think that it’s a tribute to the care and detail that went into remaking Karateka.  I have played some other ‘reboot’ games on iOS this year, and with all of them, I came away longing for the originals.  No so with Karateka.

If you’ve played Karateka before you will find this version familiar and fun to play.  If you are new to Karateka, hopefully, you will have found a new game to play that is fun to play.

Karateka is available now from the Apple iOS App Store (link) and sells for $2.99.  Karateka for iOS is a universal application and will play on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.  Before you buy, make sure you have a supported device as the game only plays on the iPhone 4S and newer, iPad 2 or newer, including the new iPad mini, and the iPod touch 5th generation.  Karateka is also available now on Xbox Live, the PlayStation Network, and Steam.  The console editions sell for about $9.99.

For more information about Karateka, check of the game’s website.

android · games · ios · mac os x · rovio · windows

Rovio Bad Piggies "Launches" Sept 27

Rovio announced today that their next game, “Bad Piggies” will launch for iOS, Android, Mac OS X, and Windows on September 27.

“Bad Piggies” is based on Rovio’s Angry Birds universe, but is not an Angry Birds game.  Think of Bad Piggies as what Amazing Alex should have been, and cross it with Angry Birds.  Check out the linked to video for a preview of what the game play is expected to be like – Bad Piggies Game Play Trailer.

[Image via BGR.com…]

astraware · atari · ea games · gameloft · games · hp · ios · ipad · iphone · ipod touch · palm · touchpad

Labor Day Mobile Games Sale Is ON!!

It’s Labor Day weekend here in the United States and that means there there are some good sales going on for some great mobile games – to help you NOT labor.

Gameloft and Electronic Arts have many games in Apple’s App Store on sale for $0.99.

Atari and APPODAY are running a promotion on the Atari’s Greatest Hits game for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.  You can download the complete 99-game pack for FREE between August 31 – September 1!  Better get cracking, as this offer expires TODAY!  Once you download the games to your iOS device, you can have unlimited play until you delete the Atari’s Greatest Hits games off your device. Once you do, you have to pay $9.99 for all the games, or $0.99 for a game pack.

Astraware HP TouchPad Word Games on Sale

Astraware, a long time creator of mobile games is running a promotion for their HP TouchPad webOS word games. For more details, checkout the HP App Catalog or the Astraware HP TouchPad word games website.

Thanks to RobT for the tip!