Archive for the ‘Kids/Family’ Category

Dizzypad

Friday, March 5th, 2010

Dizzypad

This is the latest one-thumb casual game by NimbleBit of Scoops fame. Their games are typically based on a simple premise and game mechanic that is fun to practice repeatedly; this game is no exception. Your goal as the tiny frog is simply to jump from one spinning lilypad to another. Skipping over a lilypad or snarfing up a dragonfly will net you an extra 1up flower. Dropping in the drink loses you a flower and, if you run out, it’s game over. I’m surprised at how challenging this simple task can be. For instance, there are a slew of achievements to gain, one of which is to hop a 40-lilypad sequence without fail and it is no easy feat. Since there is no clock running, you could take your time for each jump, but the game feels like the pacing should be quick and that is how I tend to play. The sound and graphics are all perfectly understated to reinforce the pond theme and colorful frog skins open up frequently. Another winner from NimbleBit.

Rating: ★★★½☆ icon
icon

Plants vs. Zombies

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

Plants vs. Zombies

Two words: buy it. The grueling wait is finally over – Plants vs. Zombies, my 2009 Casual Game of the Year, has now been released for the iPhone platform in (almost) all it’s glory and gets the site’s highest recommendation of Editor’s Choice. What the casual gaming experts at PopCap did with this title was to take the well-known gaming genre of Tower Defense, dissect it, distill it down to its core elements, inject it with an ever-present sense of humor, and then present the whole  package in a way that appeals to players of any skill level. It is a brilliant game; one that is beautifully illustrated and animated, one that allows for both strategic and tactical decision-making, and one that provides hours of enjoyment for kids and adults alike.

The unique premise of this game is that vile and pernicious zombies are attacking your home and you must fend them off with diverse selection of of armed and dangerous plants from your garden. Zombies enter the garden from the right side of the screen, occupying up to 6 horizontal lanes, and proceed to plod toward the home on the left, only to be stopped by an arsenal of plants that have been placed in the space between. The plants run the gambit from simple, unassuming sunflowers (which provide the precious resource of sun that allows the purchase of all plant types) to massive Cob Cannons that lob devastating bombs, which obliterate zombies en masse. The zombies are no less diverse in their presentation and function, starting with the lowly grunt to the white-gloved, moonwalking, Solid-Gold-dancer-spawning Michael Jackson zombie. While this hints at the humorous vibe that the game provides, it really just scratches the surface. There are so many hilarious puns, pop culture references, and quirky/characterful personalities throughout the course of this game that it really is more than the sum of its parts.

The core gameplay is just so perfectly balanced, tuned, and executed. The player must make choices at every step of the way; choosing the most strategic plant load-outs prior to each level, based on the zombie types present, choosing when and where to plant them, and choosing how to respond tactically to situations that arise at each encounter. While it doesn’t provide every single feature of its Mac counterpart at launch, like the Survival Mode and the Zen Garden, it’s still a must-have title that is recommended for just about anyone that owns an iPhone.

SPOILER ALERT – highlight to reveal:

After beating the 50 levels in Adventure Mode, Quick Play Mode opens, which allows allows the player to start at any stage and play a subset of mini-games: Wall-nut Bowling, Whack-a-zombie, Vase Breaker, the Final Boss, and the Conveyor Belt levels (1-5, 1-10, 2-10, 3-5, 3-10, 4-10, and 5-5). Playing thorough Adventure Mode a second time is just like the Mac version; Crazy Dave picks three of your seed packs for you, so that you’ll potentially use a different strategy than the first time you played through.

Rating: ★★★★★ icon
icon

Sally’s Spa

Monday, February 15th, 2010

Sally's Spa

Most fans of the Time Management genre are already aware of Sally’s Salon, which was a tour-de-force of production and gameplay, and they will most likely buy this sequel immediately. If you haven’t, here’s why you should; this developer has perfected the genre. The graphics are charming and crisp, the upgrades are numerous and interesting, the progression is engaging, and the minute-to-minute gaming is challenging and compelling.

Over the course of the game, the player will guide Sally through her career as the manager of a chain of health spas that span the globe. When patrons enter the spa, they seat themselves in the waiting area and indicate what service they are interested in first. This is typically a quick sauna or a facial, so the player must drag the customer to the appropriate station and then tap it to play a quick mini-game. The mini-games typically just require some quick shape recognition and/or a series of taps, but they do provide the feeling of actually doing something. At the completion of each station, the patron either indicates the next station they want to visit, a massage, a bubble bath, or a manicure, or just heads for the cash register to pay. Managing a series of spa-goers, keeping them happy, and managing time efficiently is what drives this game forward.

Sally’s Spa includes product sales, employees hiring, choosing which upgrades will be the most useful at each step of the way, and simply managing time wisely. Players of the first game will appreciate the new landscape display, which requires no scrolling like the portrait display did, and the Plus+ integration, which allows players to participate in leader boards and track achievements. All in all, Sally’s Spa is a great addition to the Time Management genre, an improvement on the first title, and one with lasting appeal.

Rating: ★★★★★ icon
icon

Bee Spelled

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Bee Spelled

Bee-Spelled is a streamlined clone of PopCap’s Bookworm Adventures. The word “streamlined” here means, “missing features”, but it’s still fun. What we have here is a humorous, artistic, and lovingly animated version of the primary gameplay element of the original game; spelling words from a 4×4 grid, with as many letters as you can, to blast a cute little furry creature to bits. I actually like their bonus system a great deal; red letters deal fire damage, blue letters freeze, and green letters heal. The player has to factor in these bonuses when choosing a word to play. Like I said, it works well and the game is fun, but it has very little depth. The reason for this is that they left out all the ancillary elements that make the original game great; overworld exploration, collecting items, mini-games, and…hmm…that’s all I can remember, but it was full-featured. Anyway, this version isn’t perfect and you’ll quickly beat it, but your kids might like it too. It does feature a wisecracking tomcat with a monocle and a top-hat, which would make any game a winner.

Rating: ★★★½☆ icon
icon

Alice Greenfingers

Friday, February 5th, 2010

Alice Greenfingers

This is one of the many farming sims on the App Store in which you control a cute little girl that must grow crops to sell at the local market, to make money to buy more seeds, to grow more crops…you get the picture. The starting sequence goes like this: dig plots, plant seeds, water them, harvest them, bring them to market, and set a reasonable price for them. Customers will come by your stand and purchase them or express their interest in buying a different type of fruit or vegetable. New seeds become available, over time, that you can buy from the local store to increase the variety of your harvest and sell more. The store also sells harvest baskets, watering cans, pumps, sprinklers, chickens to lay eggs, cows and sheep, and fences to keep them in check. You just run around each day of the month, repeating the sequence described above, while you expand your business and experiment with pricing. This may pull you in at first, but it gets really repetitive, as you may have guessed. There are no target quantities of items to sell or pressure to produce, so there isn’t much depth or challenge at all. It can be fun for a while, but eventually, you just feel like you are going through the motions. To be fair, many casual players and children don’t like being stressed out and they might like this, but for more seasoned players, you probably want to check out a more sophisticated game like Ranch Rush.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ icon
icon

Tomena Sanner (US)

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Tomena Sanner (US)

Okay, this game is pure genius. The gameplay consists entirely of timing moves for your little man in a business suit to execute, WHILE BREAKDANCING, in order to keep his pace and reach the goal before the timer runs out. It is loaded with wacky Japanese goodness, including a rhythm section at the end of every level. The crazy factor most closely resembles that of a old playstation game I have called Incredible Crisis (which is a must-play); while the gameplay is completely different, the humor and style is similar. Over the course of the 9 game levels, you will accomplish all of the following important tasks:

  1. Moonwalk with Santa…on the moon
  2. Ski down a dinosaur’s back
  3. Disco-dance with a panda
  4. Play Baseball with a man in a Godzilla suit
  5. Get a kiss from a Swedish maid
  6. Line-dance with Japanese schoolgirls
  7. Slam dunk on a 20’ rim
  8. Do the robot…with a robot

    By the way, if you play through the whole game, you will be able to visit both heaven and hell. Buy this game and make Konami filthy rich.

    Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
    icon

    Imp or Oaf?

    Monday, January 18th, 2010

    Imp or Oaf

    What first must be said about Imp or Oaf? is that the artwork, sense of style, music, and voice acting are absolutely superb. Playing Imp or Oaf? with my 3-year-old daughter is truly a delightful experience. The premise of the game is that there exists a pair of archetypes known only as the Imp and the Oaf. After starting a 10, 20, or 50 round game, a severely zoomed-in picture of one of these characters is displayed and the player must simply assertain whether an Imp or Oaf is being shown. Tapping the screen will zoom out a little, which will most likely not show you a recognizable portion of either fellow, so you may have to tap again. Be careful, though, because if you zoom out too much, you lose your opportunity to make a guess. This is all that you do for rounds and rounds. I imagine if I was playing this by myself, I would be shouting explitives within seconds, because it can be quite frustrating to determine the nature of the filthy little creature. Luckily, my daughter couldn’t care less whether we guess correctly, or whether it’s a “good game”, or whether we could be doing roughly 1300 more important things. Instead, she is captivated by it and her laughter makes this game worth every penny.

    Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
    icon

    Puzzlings

    Friday, July 17th, 2009

    Puzzlings is a Match-3 game, with a heart. You have a fully customizable avatar that can be kitted out as adorable or hideous. You have a homebase for your adorable little Puzzling fellow, which includes a wardrobe. Entering the wardrobe allows you to customize facial features, hats, shirts, pants, etc. Initially, there are no upgrades, but they open up near-constantly as you proceed through the game. I’m sure there are 100s of thousands of potential combinations, so you can display your own personal style. Leaving your home allows you to view the overworld map, which can be panned around to your heart’s content. Initially, one location is available. Tapping this brings you to the puzzle screen. This is comprised of an animated version of your avatar, on the left, and a new take on Match-3 on the right. Other than the aforementioned features, what sets this game apart from others in the genre, is the way in which the blocks are manipulated. Typically, in a Match-3 game, you swap two blocks to form matches. This also works inPuzzlings, but there is more to it. You see, the player can drag-select any number of blocks in a line and the whole line flips to the mirror image. You can also drag-select a box of blocks, they will begin to rotate 90 degrees each second, and tapping them stops the rotation in the new orientation. This block box can also be of any size, up to and including, the entire game board. Kooky. The game is pretty easy, so the added manipulation isn’t really necessary, but the charm factor more than makes up for it. My 3-yr-old daughterloves this game. If the challenge eventually ramps up, my rating will probably go up, as well.

    Rating: ★★★½☆ icon
    icon

    Bed Bugs

    Saturday, May 9th, 2009

    Bed Bugs

    Whack-a-Mole + actual game design = Bed Bugs. This is from the makers of Dizzy Bee and it shows; a simple idea, well executed, with super-cute art. The goal is to keep the nasties from waking your sleepwalker. You do this by tapping on them, but the diversity of greeblies is what makes this a compelling experience. Some explode if tapped at the wrong time, some blink in and out, some cannot be tapped, some need multiple taps, some you press to inflate and explode, and the list goes on. Combinations of these enemy types really puts the game over the top. I played through the first half of the levels in one sitting, so it could probably be longer, but I think it is a quality title, regardless. This one is a sleeper hit.

    Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
    icon

    Zooloretto

    Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

    Zooloretto

    YES! More boardgame conversions please. I buy all of these in hopes that more will show up, because I’m a boardgame fanatic. This is one of the more approachable boardgames, even for families, and it’s quite good. Simple, but interesting decisions, cute theme, and short play time. The goal of the game is to create the most successful zoo, by having the best combination of animals and stands. Each turn you draw a tile or play a money action. Tiles drawn are either of an animal, a coin, or a stand, which are then placed in one of three awaiting trucks. When you see a truck that has a nice combination of goods for your zoo, use your turn to nab it and plop the new goodies in your zoo. The presentation of the iPhone version is particularly nice, with a nice little multi-part zoo for each player to deposit their cute little animals and a pretty effective interface. I like it. Plus, the likeness of me that they’ve created, with the monocle, is quite striking, IMO.

    Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
    icon