Archive for July, 2009

Fritz Chess

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

This is a really full-featured Chess game, with a solid engine and AI. There’s not much else to say about it; it’s Chess. It does have a really nice analysis feature that I haven’t seen in other apps, though. The AI seems better to me than Glaurung Chess, but GC is open-source and free. I still need to compare it to Shredder Chess and HIARCS Chess, before picking a champion, though.

Update: I have now compared this to Shredder Chess and, while Shredder does have puzzles and moves fast, I prefer Fritz Chess, due to the capability of the AI opponent; I feel it is both more realistic and more advanced. Still need a copy of HIARCS, though, as the engine is rated highly.

Rating: ★★★★★ icon
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Huebris

Monday, July 20th, 2009

I have now completed every single level in Huebris and it was not only intellectually challenging, but also very rewarding. The goal of the game is to align every tile above an underlying background swatch of the corresponding color. Sounds easy right? Wrong. This game is insidious and very challenging. The first level of the game took me 45 minutes to solve, albeit in several sittings. If you go into this expecting a simple Match-3 style game, you will be crushed to a pulp. You see, each color tile has its own unique swap pattern. You tap a tile and the potential swap locations are highlighted; tap one of those candidates and the two tiles swap. The swap patterns for each color remain constant through every level, so once you learn them, your puzzle completion times improve drastically. I’ve gotten completions as low as 6 minutes, but the developer posted scores that were under 2 minutes. You will learn certain methods for moving tiles through the board by chaining together swap patterns, which is ingenious. Make no mistake, this game has a huge barrier to entry, but if you are willing to take the time and brainpower needed to Hulk-Smash your way through it, there is a really good game that lies beyond (albeit one that lacks sound). If you are a hardcore puzzle fanatic that loves a challenge, you need to buy this game.

Update: The developer has released a massive update that includes 25 new levels, many of which are much easier, a whole new game mode that is a lot of fun, a practice mode, and a tutorial, FTW. In the interest of full disclosure and shameless bragging, I should mention that I did suggest the name Huebris to the developer, who is quite a nice fellow, BTW.

Rating: ★★★★★ icon
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A Doodle Flight

Sunday, July 19th, 2009

This game is awesome. Snow white doves plummeting from the heavens, a giant, limbless baby in diapers, grumpy moons on a string, a halo-capped angel with a bouncing head, and the final boss you kill is called Supermary?!? The theme and broke-ass graphics made this an insta-buy for me and it was totally worth it. The enemy design is diverse, with dive-bombers, flight patterns, warp-ins, bouncers, homing, and I don’t know what all. The core gameplay is tight, thanks to great pacing, decent controls, and varied combinations of enemies. You have a couple different ships to choose between (although I can’t really tell much difference), both of which collect weapon powerups and bombs. Your bomb is a giant freakin’ bird that careens across the screen and nullifies every non-boss enemy on-screen! This game is crazy sexy cool.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ icon
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Triazzle

Saturday, July 18th, 2009

Triazzle

This is an iPhone rendition of a clever puzzle, in which the player must align a number of triangles, to match the pictures of adjacent triangles, to form a larger triangle. Sometimes thinky, sometimes frustrating, always polished. The trick here is that, unlike jigsaw puzzles, any piece fits anywhere, obviously, so you really have to examine the pictures. You also have to plan ahead; just because you matched up to halves of a purple frog, doesn’t mean it’s in the proper location. You have to look at the other animals that share the tile and those of the next tile and the next tile…you get the picture. It’s really well thought out, there are plenty of puzzles, and the animals even animate, when they are matched up. Don’t assume that if you don’t like jigsaw puzzles that you won’t like this, because it feels very fresh. This game is getting really good press, both from critics and forum-goers.

Rating: ★★★½☆ icon
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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
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Medieval

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

This game breathes new life into the Castle Defense genre, by introducing a new mechanic: aim. Please direct your attention to the ballista perched high atop the castle on the right. The player fires the weapon by dragging backward at the desired angle and then releasing. It takes a while to get used to, at first, but becomes second nature after a few games. You must defend your castle against footmen, archers, hatchet-men, knights on horseback, and catapults. You have to balance your defenses with firing offensive shots at the opposing castle, since the win condition is destruction of said castle. Each successful hit on any opposing troop, siege engine, or castle earns gold, which can be spent on any number of castle or troop upgrades. There are some UI issues, but nothing insurmountable. The whole game comes together nicely, now that the difficulty has been adjusted in the latest patch, and the graphics for each new level are top notch, although a bit staged.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ icon
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Word Solitaire

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

As the screenshot shows, this is like playing solitaire, but with letters, instead of numbers. Pretty fun, actually. You oftentimes start a word that you can’t complete, but then reconfigure everything to score a better word anyway. The game can be frustrating when you can’t uncover a stack, but you can often get creative to do so. Just like regular solitaire, you can sift through a stack of extra cards, but you can also burn three cards. No, really, you burn them to a crisp in that ridiculous genie lamp in the corner (a move not condoned by The Official Guide to Solitaire Strategy, I’m afraid). Among the endless stream ofBoggle clones, this is a refreshing diversion.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ icon
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Farm Frenzy

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

So far, this offers nowhere near the amount of interest that Ranch Rush does, for me. I’m probably about 10 stages into it. You buy geese, they lay eggs, you sell the eggs. Wash, rinse, repeat. You eventually get upgrades to process your eggs, but so far, it’s just another button to press. Every once in a while, your geese run out of water and die, unless you refresh the water in time, which is more punishing than fun. The primary point of interest is when a bear shows up and you have to repeatedly tap on him to cage him up. Sometimes, I just sit back and watch him pummel the geese to death. This game probably isn’t as bad as I’m making it out to be, but they were unfortunate to come out right when RR did, which seems to have a lot more to offer.

Car Mania

Monday, July 13th, 2009

This is an excellent addition to the Path Routing puzzle sub-genre. The player must guide each of the cars to the garage of the corresponding color. This is done by tapping each intersection from the origin point to the destination point. This game is a bit different than its competitors, since the cars do have low-level AI that allows them to stop and wait at a crowded intersection. Waiting, however, causes the Rage Meter to increase, which is the game ending condition. Also, unlike Flight Control, for instance, you can stop the cars yourself. Different cars have different speeds, streets must be repaired, and there are other tasks to manage. There are several level types, each with their own goals and obstacles. The 2.5D graphics are great and the title is really polished.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ icon
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Crush Bunny

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

It’s hilarious, it’s polished, the artwork is outstanding, the achievements are killer, and the soundtrack alone is worth the dollar. I still don’t always know WTF is going on, but I don’t care. The goal is to keep the quirky little robotic bunnies from getting crushed by meteors that drop from the sky and, just like in real life, you control exactly where the meteors will drop. Wait…

So, bunnies of all sizes and dispositions wander around the bottom of the screen. An arrow appears at the top of the screen that represents when and where the meteor will drop; “when” is shown by a timer and “where” is controlled by the accelerometer. If it hits bunnies, they take damage. Oftentimes, they are crushed to death. YES!!!

For each meteor that drops, you earn cash (again, just like real life). You spend this cash on bunny first aid, bunny housing of various strengths, and various other defensive goodies that open up as you earn more money. That’s not all; there are powerups that float by on tap-to-pop balloons, that can be picked up to enter a variety of mini-games…one of the powerups is a BAZOOKA and the other powerup is a DISCO BALL. This could have been a one-sentence review, had I thought to mention these two key points first. Not much depth, but who really cares? The biggest problem I’ve found is that I can’t seem to figure out how to lose. It just goes on forever. This makes it funny for the first few games, but doesn’t make you come back for more.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ icon
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