iPhone Game Friday: New Releases

Hold on to your hats, folks. This week brings us a number of tremendous new App Store gaming experiences, including two major franchise sequels and a somewhat fishy new title from Halfbrick.

It’s going to be a fun-filled weekend, so join us after the break to stock up on our latest gaming recommendations!

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Fangz HD

Fangz, and its high-def version Fangz HD, are something of a comedic take on social commentary. The premise involves killing a lot of blood sucking vampires, identified as being “the 1%” — lawyers, bankers, etc.

Thankfully, it doesn’t take the joke too far and simply explores the opportunity to offer monster killing mayhem in an environment drawn by the very talented Alex Gallego. Bolstered by smooth and detailed animations and familiar controls, Fangz is a treat to play and easily establishes itself as one of the finest shoot-’em-ups on the App Store.

As expected, there are a number of unlockable weapons and player stats, but what might surprise you (pleasantly) is that you actually have to, you know, play the game to unlock them. There are no in-app purchases whatsoever, but leaderboards and iCloud support are built in. Fangz is a wild and fun ride that offers excellent bang (and slash, and blast …) for your buck!

Price: $0.99
Developer: Alexandre Ribeiro
Download: App Store

Cut the Rope: Time Travel

Two years. That’s how long it’s been since Cut the Rope first debuted on the App Store, believe it or not. Today, we meet Cut the Rope: Time Travel, a sequel that answers the question that’s been on everyone’s mind since the beginning: what were Nom’s ancestor’s like?

Okay, so maybe no one wondered that, but you’ll certainly wonder why not after playing Time Travel. The biggest gameplay change is that you now consistently have two monsters to feed in each level instead of just one. The mechanics are otherwise the same, though you’ll of course encounter a number of time travel themed additions to the obstacles and tools.

Time Travel strikes a perfect balance between too much change and too little; it remains familiar for fans of the series and unmistakably a Cut the Rope game, but it also introduces enough new material to push the franchise forward and show that ZeptoLab haven’t been sitting on their laurels. It’s more of the same, but better, and when the original was such a masterpiece, that can only be good news.

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

City of Secrets 2: Episode 1

Speaking of sequels, here’s one I’ve been very eager to play. The first City of Secrets was one of the most ambitious and magnificent games on the iOS platform when it came out, and few titles have emerged to challenge its masterful combination of humour, gameplay and sheer charm since. Needless to say, a sequel was inevitable, and Aidem Media has finally unleashed it.

Despite the presence of a couple of other spin-off games based on the franchise, it isn’t until now that we get to experience the true sequel to the initial City of Secrets. The story begins innocently, just like the first, but it’s not long before Mole is off on another wild and ridiculous adventure. His antics are priceless and the fact that every line of dialogue (yes, really) is voice acted throughout the game makes it feel like you’re playing one of the old adventure game classics.

The sequel is evidently quite a bit bigger than the first title, which may help explain why it’s been split into four episodes. The episodic format has worked very well for adventure games in recent years, so it’s not at all surprising to see Aidem take this approach. This first episode is a strong introduction and doesn’t feel too short for the dollar you’ll spend on it. If nothing else, it’ll leave you wondering — like me — what happens next …

Price: $0.99
Developer: Aidem Media
Download: App Store

Fish out of Water!

There’s something fishy about Fish Out Of Water! and it isn’t the fact that you’re playing as a troupe of six aquatic creatures. The premise is that these six sea residents want to see the world from a new perspective, Madagascar style, except there are no amusing lemurs and penguins here.

The essence of Fish Out Of Water! is a one-swipe-one-touch mechanic that challenges you to skip these fish across the waves as far as possible. There is a sort of boost system that can help you, a few “power-up” items … and that’s it. It’s adorable to watch things unfold, and especially to see the crabby (get it?) judges at the end, but I can’t help but feel that there’s very little involvement. Whereas other Halfbrick games have been pinnacles of mobile gaming design, Fish Out Of Water! feels like the result of leaving unfed interns in a room too long and selling the result.

If that seems harsh, it’s because Halfbrick has taught us that we can and should expect greatness from mobile game developers. This game simply isn’t great — it’s cute, it’s possibly even addictive by virtue of its almost inanely simple interaction, but it lacks any of the spark that made their other titles such classics. It’s a pity, because there are some clever ideas built in, like the dynamic weather system (it changes every hour). On the other hand, adding insult to injury, a heinous IAP presence erodes even more confidence in Halfbrick’s latest initiative.

I’ll gladly pay $1 for the game, but I won’t pay another to change the colour of my name on the leaderboards, thank you very much. Ultimately, Halfbrick’s worst is still better than a large range of other titles in the App Store, but that’s no longer good enough. They have tremendous competition in today’s market, and Fish Out Of Water! simply isn’t good enough.

Price: $0.99
Developer: Halfbrick Studios
Download: App Store

Legend of Talisman

Let’s wrap things up with some comfort food, shall we? I don’t know about you, but I’ve always considered match-three titles to be one of the cornerstones of mobile gaming; not because the medium shouldn’t aspire to more, but because the mechanic just fits the hardware like a glove.

One of the standout genre pieces of the past little while is Legend of Talisman. This pirate themed game offers some interesting spins on the basic matching, one of which is that your goal is not simply to match coloured gems; you’ll be struggling to unite two halves of a talisman in each level, meaning that each move you make must be strategic. Shifting the focus to precision rather than timing makes a huge difference, and once you start encountering traps and more interesting obstacles, you’ll find yourself needing to really pay attention.

In a sense, it’s a thinking person’s version of a match-3 game, and in that sense it is extremely compelling. There are some issues, like the fact that you need to buy undos as IAP and the fact that progress is very slow unless you also buy the gold you’ll need to unlock new levels. If you can get around those though, you’ll find that Legend of Talisman is a worthy and challenging addition to your game collection.

Price: $0.99
Developer: Absolutist Ltd
Download: App Store

What Have You Been Playing?

There you have it: this week’s top iOS game picks! Be sure to swing by again next week for a fresh batch, and don’t hesitate to leave us some comments if you discover any fun titles we may have missed.