It’s time for another Core Dump! This one’s a very mixed batch — a platformer, a racer, some real-time strategy games, a maze app for kids, a hidden object game that’s not for kids, and word puzzles. So if you like iOS apps, there’s probably something here for you.
Monster Crew — free universal app (optional in-app currency)
Halloween’s over, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still have some fun with monsters. The story behind this platformer’s a bit weird — something about a kid who finally completed his Monster Crew cards collection only to have them sold to some creepy dude in a castle, and then he turns into Frank of the Monster Crew … Like I said, strange. But the gameplay is simple: tap anywhere to jump, and tap again to stomp down. You’ll traverse floor after floor filled with spiders, skeletons, and ghosts, trying to stomp the ones you can and avoid the ones you can’t. As you play, you’ll collect “cards” which give you bonuses — you can play a single card after each completed floor, helping you to get further or gain coins to buy more cards for your deck.
The gameplay isn’t spectacular, but my kids and I are having fun trying to build up the deck. There is a storyline that you follow, and as you complete missions you get bits of the story revealed to you. Some of the items in the Bonus Store seem ridiculously overpriced, because they’re clearly wanting you to spend some real cash on the in-app currency, but you can play quite a ways into the game without spending a dime. Not quite as great as, say, Jetpack Joyride, but a fun diversion.
Righteous Kill is another crime detective hidden object game, somewhat like Masters of Mystery: Crime of Fashion. You’re a detective searching for clues to solve a series of murders. It’s loosely based on a 2008 movie starring De Niro and Pacino, but in the game you’re a female detective and there isn’t any sign of Turk and Rooster. Parts of the game are typical hidden-object searching, but you also have things like searching for fingerprints and laying out evidence. (This last part, though, is a bit too easy, because there aren’t many clues that fit in multiple spots.) Because of the subject matter, this one’s not for kids, although it’s still fairly tame for adult fare.
Spell Rift – $2.99 iPad only
Here’s another game from the Kieffer Bros. who created Aqueduct, but this time they’ve got a word puzzle game. It’s sort of a hybrid between Boggle and match-three games, with tiles disappearing and dropping down. However, as you play through the game, more and more special tiles start to appear: bombs which have to be cleared within five moves, spinners that display a different letter after each turn, lock plates that must be used several times to clear, and so on. Each level also has one main objective to clear it, plus three achievements that can earn you stars. I got past most of the levels without too much trouble, but I still haven’t managed to get all the stars yet — it can get pretty tough. As with the Kieffer Bros.’ other apps, the graphics and sound are nicely done. The puzzle menu is made to look like a path through a floating world, which was unexpected but a nice touch. The only downside is that the letters do seem to be totally random, which means that sometimes you’ll get huge runs of the same letter or sections of the board with no vowels whatsoever, but it’s a big enough board that you can sometimes work a different section until things change.
Finger Tied – $2.99 iPad only
This one’s somewhat bizarre, but can be fun to play with multiple players on a single iPad. In fact, you may need multiple players for some of these puzzles. Finger Tied is a sort of touch maze: you have to color in the provided shape from start point to finish without lifting your finger, retracing your path, or going outside the shape. Simple so far, right? Where it gets tricky is when you have multiple paths to trace, because you can’t start until you’re touching all of the start positions, and you can’t lift any fingers until you reach all of the end positions. Some levels will feel like you’re playing Twister with your fingers. I recruited my kids to help with some of the three- and four-finger mazes, but even then they were a challenge.
Tangled fingers aside, some of the puzzles are tricky just to figure out the paths — there are squares that must be moved through in a particular direction, squares that must be connected to a particular start or end path, and so on. On top of that, you’ll earn a bronze, silver, or gold star depending on your speed in completing the puzzle. Even on Easy (the second of four levels) I’ve had trouble getting gold stars in everything without help. (Note: be sure to turn off multitasking gestures in Settings, or you won’t be able to play any of the four-finger puzzles!)
Robot Race – $.99 universal app (optional in-app currency)
Robot Race is about, well, racing robots. You get to choose from a number of different bots — two are available at start, and the rest you can unlock by earning (or buying) in-app currency. Each bot also has three different skins you can purchase. But first you’ll need to win some races, and then you’ll want to spend money on the various weapons. As you race, you can pick up powerups that will boost you or slow down your enemies, and what’s inside the powerups depends on which weapons you’ve unlocked in the store. There are six different tracks to race, each with their own obstacles and hidden shortcuts. You can either use tilt controls or touch-screen, although even with tilt you’ll need to tap to activate powers, brake, and jump. It’s not the best racing game I’ve ever played (it’s certainly no F1 Race Stars), but it’s kind of fun and has some humorous elements to it. Plus, it’s only a buck.
Totem Tribe Gold was originally a PC game that’s been ported to iOS, and I’ve gotten totally sucked into it. It’s been responsible for several late nights, so don’t say I didn’t warn you. Aruku, chief of the Hawk tribe, is that woman in the leopard print bikini, and life for her island-dwelling people has gotten dangerous and strange. You help explore the islands, searching for the source of the disruptions. Totem Tribe Gold is a real-time strategy game: your people can build different huts and buildings, which in turn produce specific types of people (workers, hunters, fighters, witch doctors) or can help you research better technology and magic. In the meantime, you can send your Scouts around the island to explore — there’s a “fog of war” effect that hides most of the map until you’ve traveled there, so you don’t always know where the bad guys are hiding until you come across them … or when they come to you.
There are also puzzle elements to the game, and a hidden object feature as you look for little gems and other things scattered around the islands. (Again, though: why don’t hidden-object games include a zoom feature for iOS? Even on the iPad those gems are tiny.) I’ve played it for literally hours, and am finally nearing the end. But I’ll be a little sad when I’m finished, too. You can finish the main story in maybe about half that time, but there are side quests (“interludes”) that open up when you fulfill certain requirements, and if you’re trying to collect all the hidden objects you’ll revisit the islands a lot.
The controls for the game are pretty straightforward and the first few levels are all about teaching you how things work. Once you have the basics, new buildings and people are introduced gradually, so by the time you reach the final levels you’ll have harder decisions about what to build first and which technologies to pursue. Aside from the zoom feature, the one other thing I wish the game had was reminders about what side missions are present on each island on the map screen. I found myself quite often visiting an island to remember which one it was, and then having to wait while it saved and took me back to the map again. But these are mostly minor issues, and overall I had a lot of fun playing Totem Tribe Gold.
Here’s another real-time strategy game, though it’s a bit more frantic than Totem Tribe. Fantasy Conflict pits you (King Flabbian) against the dwarves, who have stolen the Energizer Crystal from your clock so that you overslept and missed breakfast. Whatever the cause, you’re now at war with them so you’re battling for territory across several different regions. Each level has a series of castles with roads leading to and from them. You and the enemy each start with one or more of the castles, and your goal is to take over all of the castles.
Any castle you hold will slowly increase its population up to its max. You can then send either half or all of those soldiers to a connected castle, where they will fight to take it over (or just lump in if it’s already yours). You can also use soldiers to help build up a castle: increasing the size will raise the maximum population; building fortifications makes it costlier for your opponent to attack; building a cannon or crossbow will allow you to shoot down attacking soldiers or airships.
In the meantime, you’ll also get some abilities that will charge up during play, letting you set fire to castles, call in extra troops, inflict a castle with plague, and so on. But watch out — the enemy will have a set of spells to use against you, too. The storyline and graphics are made to be pretty silly, and the game has one of the funniest achievement displays I’ve seen: it’s that portrait of the fat king with his three fighters: as you earn achievements, they get new pieces of their outfits and accessories. It’s another pretty fun game, though it would be cool to be able to play this against other humans and not just the AI opponent.
Maze Adventures – $2.99 iPad only
Finally, one for the kids. My kids like mazes, and Maze Adventures generates new mazes each time you play. With four difficulty levels, there are mazes easy enough for toddlers (maybe too easy) and more challenging ones for older kids. (Though it probably maxes out at tweens — the maze in the lower left is from the highest difficulty level.) You get to choose one of six characters, which changes the sorts of things that will appear in the maze, as well as the look of it. In each maze, you can just try to get to the exit if you like, but you’ll get achievements for collecting all of the goodies and defeating all of the enemies (you’ll need your weapon first) before exiting.
One nice touch is that pretty much all of the instructions are spoken, so non-readers can still play their mazes. My only complaint is the way you can press and hold a certain location to have the character automatically take the shortest path there. It only works up to a certain distance, but on the easier levels you can almost just press and hold the exit and wait for the computer to figure out the maze, defeating the purpose.
Disclosure: GeekDad received review codes for the apps reviewed here.