You’ll have nightmares for days after playing Somethin’ Else’s spookily excellent audio-only survival horror game, Papa Sangre II. This sequel to the innovative 2010 original returns you to the land of the dead in a hunt for trapped memories — this time guided by the voice of Game of Thrones star Sean Bean, who brings a delightful British charm to the proceedings. Papa Sangre II builds well on the successes of its predecessor, but it demands too much from you at times and ultimately sinks into frustrating, tiresome repetition.
Bit.Trip Presents… Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien is arguably one of the best games to hit Mac this year, so the debut of a gorgeous iOS version is more than welcomed. And for the most part, Bit.Trip Run! manages to carry over the intense platforming action while attempting to keep things working on a touch screen. But amid all of that fantastic gameplay, you'll sadly find a game that isn't quite ready for prime time, and desperately needs an update to smooth over some notable issues.
Backyard Monsters: Unleashed expertly adapts Kixeye’s popular Facebook game for iOS, putting you in charge of a horde of deadly fiends as they build a mighty fortress and wage war on neighboring clans. The beasts are on the scary side of cute, morphing sweet and colorful character designs into something out of a nightmare — which rather adheres to their particular brand of destruction.
Confused demonyms notwithstanding, Romans from Mars is a fairly straightforward iOS offering from Sidekick Games: waves of green-skinned centurions are attacking your ramparts and you, a lone ballista operator, are tasked with holding them off. The Roman deity Jupiter supplies intermittent spells — an earthquake here, a lightning bolt there — but the bulk of Romans from Mars consists of launching huge arrows as quickly and accurately as possible against increasingly complex hordes of aliens. Unfortunately, it devolves into mindless tapping, while the free-to-play approach makes upgrades prohibitively expensive before long.
With a laser pistol in one hand and a glowing sword in the other, charging through long corridors filled with killer robots, oozing slime creatures, and alien freaks sounds like a good time. It is — at least to an extent — in Echo Prime. This sci-fi brawler from Robot Entertainment (Hero Academy) is a high-energy tap-fest that balances smart controls and formidable challenge. The satisfaction that comes from cleaving through droves of foes in a successful run dampens during longer play sessions, however, due to intense repetition that'll leave your wrists aching.
It’s entirely possible to overlook Even Up. In an app marketplace hellbent on grabbing your attention with busy free-to-play arcade distractions and Helvetica-and-clean-lines brainteasers, Even Up is so unassuming you might mistake it for a simplified Sudoku board. Seemingly taking its design cues from picture slider puzzles, solving each grid requires combining all numbered tiles on top of each other in sequential order until the screen is clear. You can push any numbered tile to a matching one on the grid as long as its path is clear – from there the combined tile’s number will be one higher than whatever it was originally.
Rosetta Stone’s products immerse you in the language you are learning with its innovative teaching method and lessons that force you to think like a native speaker. Rosetta Stone Arcade Academy, a free-to-play iOS educational game, attempts to build on the foundation of the computer-based language courses by introducing some gaming components as it teaches you the basics of Spanish. The result, unfortunately, is a frustrating experience that often distracts more than it enlivens the process of learning.
Batman’s supposed to be the world’s greatest detective, possessing a genius-level intellect and an endless arsenal of gadgets that let him maneuver and solve problems in interesting ways. He’s also known for getting into plenty of fistfights with thugs, and it’s this latter aspect that the iOS version of Batman: Arkham Origins focuses on. While Bats explores Gotham City, unravels mysteries, and terrifies criminals with stealthy scare tactics in the console and PC versions, his iOS adventure couldn’t be more straightforward, as he tackles tap-heavy one-on-one fights against a seemingly unending procession of goons.
CSR Racing was an unconventional entry for the racing genre, seeing as it included very little actual racing. Instead of steering around obstacles, you were tasked with dragging down a straight stretch of road, with timed control prompts like gearshifts used to influence your performance. Still, it became a massive free-to-play hit, spawning numerous copycats along the way. Follow-up CSR Classics offers much of the same tone as the original affair, though with the added element of classic hotrods to appeal to the gear head in us all.
Created by one of the designers of the mesmerizing and atmospheric Limbo, the pint-sized 140 strikes a much different image. Gone are the gloomy, shadow-centric backdrops and the eerie happenings, replaced by vivid pixel graphics and thumping electronic beats, which sync up well with the rhythmic obstacles and platform movements in the world of this ultra-minimalist side-scroller. Yet despite the many differences, 140 is very much cut from the same cloth as its pseudo-predecessor, as both drop you into an alluring world without a trace of explanation, yet impart their rules and mechanics with ease. And neither lingers for longer than is needed.