Posts Tagged: Word

Beat it: Alphabeats comes to iOS

You try to come up with a funny caption for a word game.

You try to come up with a funny caption for a word game.

As a general rule, most word games aren’t permitted entrance to Mount Hexmap where the Pocket Tactics magic is brewed. It’s not that word games are loathed here in the comfy confines, in fact some of them can be quite remarkable, it’s just that the remarkable ones are few and far between.

Now we have Alphabeats which meshes Scrabble (can a word game not compare itself with Scrabble?) and music games. Letters fall, Matrix-style, to the beat of a “pulse-pounding” song, forcing you to make words with them as fast as you can. On top of that, it has the aesthetic appeal of QatQi, which is something nobody can complain about.

The game comes with 6 songs from electronic artists such as Disasterpeace and Big Giant Circles, with 15+ more songs available as IAP. The app itself is $2 on the App Store.

Trailer after the break.

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Out Tonight: FTL, FTL, FTL, and FTL (and other stuff)

Can't we fight FancyBot instead?

Can’t we fight FancyBot instead?

Were you just released from prison? Has your memory suddenly returned from a bout of soap opera amnesia? Did you recently escape from the compound of a hyper-conservative Luddite religious community? Then it’s possible you’ve missed the fact that vaunted PC starship captain sim FTL is coming to iPad tonight. (If your problem was the last one, I’ll explain what iPads are later.)

FTL: Advanced Edition comes to us with a trove of new content that didn’t exist in the original PC release of the game, and the interface has been completely reworked for iPad — something that I briefly examined on Monday. I won’t waste time coyly pulling punches here: Subset’s iPad FTL is single-malt awesome served (no ice) in a tumbler of badassery on a coaster of righteousness.

Oh yes, and there’s other games, too, some of them very promising indeed. Trailers galore after the jump.

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Words with fiends: SpellBounders is fantasy multiplayer Scrabble

Plague Rats deploy automatically if you're using an unapproved Scrabble dictionary.

Plague rats deploy automatically if you’re using an unapproved Scrabble dictionary.

Of course, none of SpellBounders’ press materials say it quite so succinctly due to a healthy fear of Hasbo’s intellectual property attorneys but yes: SpellBounders is fantasy combat Scrabble. It’s a terribly clever idea.

In SpellBounders you face off against online opponents asynchronously — i.e., you take your turn when you’ve got time — and make words using the letter tiles in your inventory. If you’ve never played Scrabble (congratulations on your release from prison after 80 years, by the way) or Words with Friends, the gist is that you get more points for making words with less frequently-occuring letters like Q and Y. SpellBounder’s twist on the classic formula is that some tiles on the board contain mana that power the special abilities of characters you can play as.

A few of those heroes come free, and the rest are purchased individually, mirroring the way that DOTA and League of Legends make money. It makes sense that this game is free-to-play: as it’s multiplayer-only, it’s going to live or die by the size of the player base. Developers Insane Root tell me that SpellBounders will be out on iOS April 7th.

Watch the trailer after the jump.

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Life viewed through a prism: Blackbar


A reasonable expectation of privacy.

I picked up Mirror’s Edge for PC in the (not-so) Humble Bundle the other day. The game had always interested me but I’d just never found the time back in 2008. The gameplay is aces (first-person parkour — still unique) but it’s the surveillance state theme that I was still thinking about hours after I had put the computer to sleep. Maybe five years ago that would have felt like Orwellian science fantasy but it feels weirdly prescient now, and it left me wondering when we could expect to see iOS games investigating the subject.

And voila: Touch Arcade has unearthed Blackbar, a new iOS game from Big Bucket‘s Neven Mrgan and Panic‘s James Moore. In the world of Blackbar, all correspondence must pass through the censors of the Department of Communication, and you must piece together the redacted and obfuscated letters you receive from a confidant.

I’m going to get stuck into Blackbar shortly and I’ll report back next week. Big Bucket are presumably still working on Space Age, their adventure game follow-up to The Incident that we first glimpsed back in February.

Sarah Northway’s Word Up Dog wants to kick it with you tonight

That's the way you're living.

In living color.

Sarah Northway needed a break from the end of the world. “I wanted something to lighten my mood after long months of simulating zombie massacres,” she said.

The output of Sarah’s diligence was Rebuild, the wonderfully replayable post-apocalyptic city-building adventure that started life as two separate Flash games and was eventually ported for iOS, Android, and even the pitiable Blackberry. So who could blame her for needing a holiday from zombies? Northway’s new game couldn’t be thematically further from the gruesome, unsentimental survivalist world of Rebuild. “It turned out pretty damn silly,” she told me.

Boy did it ever.
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Out Tonight: Dungeon Lore, Might & Magic, and more

Fat heroes.

Clash of Heroes is a console-sized 2GB.

After a couple of humdrum weeks January is finally getting into gear tonight with a few eye-catching iOS releases. These games are all out in New Zealand, the shadowy land of Janus – watch for them to show up in your timezones around midnight local time.

The release of Might & Magic Clash of Heroes will be grabbing a lot of headlines today – the game was a big success on XBLA and Nintendo DS a couple of years back. Despite the name, this isn’t a fantasy wargame in the vein of the old Might & Magic titles you might remember from the 1990s – it’s a strategy puzzle game whose fans include PT‘s own Lou Rinaldi. Word around town was that the iOS port of Clash of Heroes wasn’t exactly perfect, but it’s gotten a few pre-release updates that apparently address most of the problems.

Promising-looking iPad-only RPG Dungeon Lore is out tonight. We first talked about this one yesterday – it’s a product of two-man Michigan studio 3D Attack. The withdrawal of Battle Dungeons and the relative age of Dungeon Crawlers left a nice hole in the App Store for a turn-based tactical RPG with the word “dungeon” in the title. Clancy is reviewing this one for us and should have his two cents in a few days.

Word game Dragonborn

Tumblewords has GameCenter multiplayer so hit me up on that.

First mentioned last week, the bomb defusing-themed puzzle game ShellBlast Forever also hits the App Store tonight. It’s one of the harder puzzle games I’ve played in while, actually – at the higher levels, it’s downright tense.

Last but not least, a new word puzzle game called Tumblewords. It’s a very moderately-paced word game, closer in spirit to the stately Letterpress than the frantic Puzzlejuice. Like Letterpress, the game features a number of different backgrounds and color schemes, but unlike Letterpress’s flat minimalism, Tumblewords’ art is supplied by notable webcomic artists: Liza Ferneyhough and KC Green at the moment, but a forthcoming DLC will add art from Achewood creator Chris Onstad. Remind me to tell you the story of waiting in line in Brooklyn to get Onstad’s signature on Worst Song, Played on Ugliest Guitar.

Your going to like it alot: The Grading Game

"Grammar is a piano I play by ear."

Grocer’s apostrophe begone.

“Really? Is that a thing?” I’d just showed The Grading Game to current PhD student Phil.

Oh yes, Phil, it is a thing. The Grading Game takes place in a whimsical fantasy universe where a grad student’s loan debt is paid off incrementally each time they grade a paper. You’re in a race against the clock to find grammar and spelling mistakes, with the goal of failing as many undergrads as possible.

“I’ve worked hard to make the game pop and shine, and the result is pretty addictive,” developer Charles Deck told me, “particularly if you’re a grammar nut or a stickler for errors like ‘alot’.”

The Grading Game was originally conceived as “First-Person Tutor” and created for the 7 Day FPS game jam – you may have read about it in RPS. It’s out today as an iOS universal app for a buck – a 50% off launch sale. Check for Phil’s review in the next week or so.

Pocket Takes: 21 Days, Governor of Poker 2, and Writer Rumble

21 Days

It's weird that both options are handcuffs.

With 21 Days’ persnickety controls, you should get used to seeing this screen a lot.

iPhone edition, $0.99.

21 Days is a daring game design that I really wanted to like, but its doesn’t quite have the chops to back up its ambition. In 21 Days you’re a bank robber in prison, betrayed by your partner during a heist and desperate for revenge. No sooner have you arrived in prison than you have the good fortune to fall in with some felons plotting to escape – in the titular number of days.

21 Days plays from a top-down perspective, and you draw paths for protagonist Sam Cooper to follow. The name of the game is escape, and that escape entails studying the movement patterns of guards and drawing Sam paths to avoid them. It’s attempting to be Splinter Cell crossed with Flight Control, but it’s never as exciting as that sounds.

Studying the movement of guards and coming up with a plan to evade them is pretty exciting in open 3D areas like the ones in console and PC games like Far Cry 3 and Hitman – in 21 Days it’s just a bit tedious. The environments aren’t particularly interesting and there’s few wrinkles in the base gameplay mechanics, so you ultimately just spend a lot of time waiting and staring at the screen.

Between levels there’s some substantial story exposition, but the writing is clunky at best. The game’s greatest asset is the wonderful art. The character portraits have an elongated quality that makes them look a bit like finger puppets – a clever visual reference for a game played on a touchscreen.


2 out of 5


Governor of Poker 2

Anybody from Amarillo? I own you.

You can buy hats with your winnings – that’s my blue sombrero there at the top.

iPhone edition, $3.99 – iPad edition, $4.99

Governor of Poker 2 is a curious blend of poker sim and real estate tycoon game that takes place in an alternate history 19th-century Texas where the governor has banned poker. The governor has agreed to lift his restriction, if only someone will prove to him that poker is a game of skill and not chance – that’s where you come in.

As a mustachioed combination of Simón Bolívar and Doyle Brunson, you must travel from town to town throughout Texas, winning poker tournaments and liberating each burg from the poker ban. How is it that these towns are hosting poker tourneys while poker is banned? Who cares. Playing Governor of Poker 2 for the plot is like ordering the fish at a steakhouse. Play Governor of Poker for the poker.

As a Texas hold ‘em sim, it’s solid – if awfully forgiving. I’m a half-way decent poker player at best, and I’ve won most of the tournaments I entered in GoP2. The AI doesn’t seem to be designed to win, as much as it is to lose gracefully. And it does that well – AI players with big stacks of chips will attempt to bully you out of hands, and players that have lost big pots will go on tilt, complete with cartoon steam coming out of their ears.

This is no hardcore simulation, but it’s fun and there’s a meta-layer where you use your winnings to buy up all the property in each town, earning a bit of income from each house. It feels a bit tacked on, but it does give the game a nice sense of progression. Having properties to buy gives you something to do with all that money you’re winning, besides just throwing it back into the middle of the table for the next tournament.

The game suffers from a mild case of PC port-itis as well: the occasional slowdown, the inability to access menus while the dealer animation is playing. There’s also an IAP currency – a bit cheeky for a paid app  – but I ignored it and was no worse for it. Despite the many flaws, I couldn’t help but have fun with the game – it’s greater than the sum of its parts. Plus, I own Amarillo, which I should probably go visit now.


4 out of 5


Writer Rumble


The Case of the Missing Fun.

iOS Universal, $0.99

Writer Rumble is so much fun in concept: some of the greatest writers in history are pitted gainst one another in a fighting game. Beneath the hugely charming concept and nicely realized art and characterizations, the game itself is pedestrian and dull.

Your writers fight by spelling words from a grid of random letters – longer words make for bigger attacks. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before in other word games, and Writer Rumble’s implementation is a bit dry. There’s no combos or special tiles, just a handful of special abilities – many of which are so trivial you’ll never be tempted to use. The optimal strategy in both the head-to-head multiplayer and the single-player “survival” mode is to spam as many three-letter words as you can – I can’t imagine that Poe or Austen or would approve.

Despite the wonderfully appealing setup, there’s far better word games on the App Store, both for multiplayer and single-player.  It seems that the lesson here is “don’t judge an app by it’s icon”.


2 out of 5