iPhone Game Friday: New Releases

So, how’d it go? Did you get everything you asked for? We sure hope so — and if you’re sporting a brand new iPhone and looking for some fun games to test it out with, then you’re in the right place.

As the App Store closes up shop for the holidays, we bring you some of the best recent releases to make it out for this last week of 2012!

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Final Fantasy IV

As Square Enix continues to forge ahead with the Final Fantasy series on other consoles, it has also been working diligently on updating the older titles for today’s gaming market, bringing them to the iOS App Store. Final Fantasy IV is the latest of these updates, and the greatest.

Now more than twenty years old, Final Fantasy IV was a huge leap forward for the franchise, with the introduction of the iconic Active Time Battle system and the ability to transfer skills between characters. Its memorable characters, sprawling story and evocative music continue to delight today, and the updated graphics and Game Center support enhance the experience appropriately.

The current iPhone 5 optimization is a little wonky, resulting in stretched and distorted images and text, but it’s presumably not the intended look so keep an eye out for an update for that. Otherwise, you’ll find FFIV as engaging and worthy as ever — a premium game with a price tag to match.

Price: $15.99
Developer: Square Enix
Download: App Store

Pudding Monsters

The folks behind the exquisite Cut the Rope have been fairly quiet outside of their debut title … until now. Pudding Monsters, their latest outing, is a joyously colourful and engrossing action puzzle adventure featuring pudding blobs, sticky goo and monsters!

The gameplay is an interesting blend of sliding and matching. You’ll be pushing your pudding blobs around the board in an effort to connect them into bigger blobs so they can escape. The best part is that there are several kinds of monsters, all of which are adorable, hilarious and genuinely different in ways that affect gameplay strategy meaningfully.

There are some IAP available to help you, but I didn’t find them necessary, which is perfect. The game excels by taking a simple concept and polishing it to perfection, then wrapping it in the kind of delicious visual and audio presentation that makes it impossible to resist. If you’re a fan of Zeptolab’s excellent previous games, you’ll know not to hesitate with this one.

Price: $0.99
Developer: ZeptoLab UK Limited
Download: App Store

Anomaly Korea

One of the very best games to ever be released in the tower defense genre was Anomaly Warzone Earth. This cross-platform masterpiece was notable not only for its stunning graphics and deep strategic gameplay, but also for its focus on offense rather than defense.

Having created their own little niche genre of “tower offense” games, 11 Bit Studios returns with Anomaly Korea, an action-packed sequel that picks up shortly after the last game as the aliens come back for a rematch — this time to capture Korea. The new setting doesn’t manifest in any wildly different ways, though the levels are more interestingly designed and provide great challenge. Each stage will require you to fight your way through the streets while maintaining, upgrading, and replenishing your combat force.

The game is universal, and features a spectacular audio presentation including a great musical score and full voice acting. One of the best titles on the platform, Anomaly Korea is an unmissable sequel.

Price: $2.99
Developer: 11 Bit Studios
Download: App Store

Ravensword: Shadowlands

Speaking of best games in a genre, you should recognize the name Crescent Moon Games as the development studio behind Aralon, Topia and the first Ravensword game, The Fallen King. Their newest fantasy adventure, Ravensword: Shadowlands, is a gigantic and stunning RPG powered by the Unity engine.

Playable in first or third person, Shadowlands is a definitive iOS gaming experience. Where Infinity Blade wowed with amazing graphics but fairly linear gameplay, Shadowlands competes graphically but excels in offering you a more open world to explore. Controls are responsive and feel weighty, with manual dodging and blocking interspersed with attacks for a fighting experience that goes beyond button mashing. The enemies are frightening and diverse, sometimes huge, and the variety extends to weaponry as well.

If you can think of something you’d do in a console RPG — pickpocketing, loot gathering, upgrading, riding creatures, using magic, sneaking around, etc. — then there’s a good chance you can do it in Ravensword: Shadowlands. Also pay attention to the music, by award-winning composer Sean Beeson. For those who enjoy deeper, more satisfying games on their iPhones, this is a true gift.

Price: $6.99
Developer: Crescent Moon Games
Download: App Store

Mazes and Monsters

To wrap up today, we’re showcasing an app that fits into the category of nostalgic adventures, but rather than accomplishing this with 8-bit graphics, Mazes and Monsters presents a gorgeous, Zelda-like top-down adventure painted in some fantastic sprites.

The game follows in Zelda’s footsteps fairly closely, offering both a dungeon crawling experience and a more casual one if you are so inclined. The town contains several mini games (fishing!) to pass some time outside of the more involved dungeon sections. You will of course collect gear and there are number of secrets and subtle references to catch if you go hunting for them.

Fairly modest in its ambitions, Mazes and Monsters succeeds by the strength of its execution and the purity of its goals. A dollar well spent for those hoping for some Zelda-like fun on their iPhone.

Price: $0.99
Developer: Monster Robot Studios
Download: App Store

What Have You Been Playing?

Have a wonderful end of 2012, everyone — we’ll see you on the flip side with a fresh batch of new games for the new year!