I feel I should state from the beginning that I am not a fan of “free-to-play” games (F2P) that are driven by in-app purchases (IAP). Some day I might just write an article about that, but for now let’s just say that I don’t really like the concept of continually paying for one game (I’m not a fan of massively multi-player online games [MMOs] for the same reason). Anyway, despite those feelings I decided to spend some time with Pet Zoometery, and while there are some features about the game that I do enjoy, in the end it feels just like any other F2P: it’s fun for a while, but ultimately gets tedious and somewhat stale.
3.5 out of 5 stars
Back when graphics were first starting to take shape for computer games, Sierra set the standard for adventures with titles like King’s Quest and Leisure Suit Larry. The fact that you could actually see your character follow your commands along with the immense amount of dialog made the experience feel as much like an interactive movie as anything. Phoenix Online Studios clearly understands what it takes to make this style of game, and as much as I loved the old Sierra games, I’d say the Cognition series kicks things up a notch or two. More realistic characters, adult subject matter (in a mature way, not like Leisure Suit Larry), and a focus on exploration and discovery (instead of finding an obscure key in a tree to unlock some mystic chest) give Cognition Episode 1 more of a Law & Order bent than anything. It’s just too bad this intriguing story telling couldn’t have come with a better interface wrapped around it.
City Birds (free from $0.99, Nov. 27-29)
Matching fans are in for a treat should they decide to take City Birds for a spin. This game is pure casual action fun that’s not quite like anything I’ve played before on my iPad, and given the amount of games I have played, that says quite a bit. It’s easy to learn and quickly gets addictive. The problem is that once you’ve unlocked all the birds and completed all the challenges, which sadly doesn’t take as long as one would like, the game grows kind of stale. Hopefully updates that are in the works will address this issue so that this original game can remain fresh to its players for quite some time.
I used to start out just about every review of an online game making some sort of comment about how I don’t really like online games. I'm beginning to think that’s not really the case. What I don’t like are games where if you’re not in the “elite” you’re pretty much dead when you step out on the battlefield. I also don’t care for games where people pretty much expect you to chat or make the game as much about taunting as actually playing. Thankfully The Rats Online (free with IAP) handles all of these things in just the right manner. Its simple nature makes it easy to get into, and the nicely organized list of folks you need to exact revenge on makes it worth coming back in periodically to see how things are going.
I’ve been a fan of Star Wars since before a vast majority of hardcore iOS players were born. And as much as I hate to admit it, I was sucked into the Angry Birds phenomenon just like so many other players. When the first Angry Birds Star Wars game was released, however, I was curious but also dumbfounded. Was Rovio that needy to expand the franchise—and for that matter, was LucasArts so desperate for some name recognition in the mobile world? I basically ignored the first installment; but when I saw they had released Angry Birds Star Wars II ($0.99), I decided it was time to see what the appeal was. In some ways I actually admire how they’ve melded together the two franchises. Overall though, I’m not finding the experience quite as entertaining as the original game that started it all. At least they were kind enough to include a playable Yoda character in the mix.
Paranormal Hotel HD (Free, $6.99 to unlock full game) is yet another G5 adventure game. Like many of the newer releases, it gravitates towards the actual adventure side of things with few mini-games and no hidden object scenes. The story is captivating, but the game play isn’t quite as strong as what I’ve come to expect from G5’s adventure offerings. There seems to be a lot of back and forth and dialogs with not so much puzzle solving in between. It still keeps me wanting to play, but more because I’m curious about what’s going to happen rather than looking forward to the next set of puzzles to solve.
I am not a huge fan of in-app-purchase (IAP) driven games, though that seems to be the way that even the big developers are going these days. A little over a year ago Big Blue Bubble released one called My Singing Monsters (Free), and despite my disdain for the freemium model I decided to give it a shot anyway. It’s one of the few such games that remain on my device to this day. I don’t spend hours a day with it simply because I don’t want to fall into the trap of dishing out more dough through IAP than I would if I went and bought a console game, for example, but I still enjoy pulling it up every once in a while and seeing how my monsters are doing. Besides, how could you not enjoy a group of fun-loving, goofy creatures that like to sing? It worked for the Muppets, after all…
If you happened to catch my review of Twin Moons HD, another G5 adventure game release, this one might sound similar in a lot of ways. Part of me wishes I could try more of the G5 releases as they come out, but the positive tradeoff seems to be that when I do finally get to play one, it usually turns out to be a good one. Of course there are still “levels of goodness” even among the really good games, and in that regard I’d say Dreamscapes: The Sandman Collector’s Edition HD (Free; $6.99 IAP to unlock full game) easily ranks in the top five and maybe even the top three games that I’ve played from G5. I just wish they’d stop writing these games with sequels in mind, because now I might just lose a little sleep waiting to find out what happens next.
Clay Jam (Free) is a game about clay. I'm really not sure what genre you'd classify the game under, but it's different, quirky, and most importantly, fun. There are times when the controls seem a bit unresponsive and some of the challenges definitely live up to the concept of a challenge, yet the overall demeanor of the game is lighthearted and whacky, and every gamer needs a selection or two like it to balance out the "serious" nature that so many modern games take. Games are supposed to help you escape from the real world, and Clay Jam does that quite well.
It’s hard enough creating one substantial game in a series, let alone a franchise that holds up over several iterations. Sprinkle is one example of how to do it right. The original Sprinkle was a surprise and a delight, and Sprinkle Jr. was entertaining, though it sat much better with my 8-year-old son who actually played it through at least three times. Now we have Sprinkle Islands ($1.99), and it looks to be everything the original Sprinkle was to a grander scale. My only grumble so far is that it didn’t do away with the need to play each world completely through to get to the next one.