Hauling around a heavy backpack crammed with a Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, dice bag, pewter miniatures, and other tools of the tabletop RPG trade can be exhausting. Luckily, Dungeons & Dragons action is more portable than ever thanks to the iPad re-releases of BioWare’s celebrated Baldur’s Gate games, and 2000’s Baldur’s Gate II is the latest to make the leap. This return romp through the Forgotten Realms definitely recaptures the magic of playing AD&D 2nd Edition long ago, but the old-school design doesn't make a perfectly smooth transition to iPad.
Three years and an equal number of follow-ups after the original game took the App Store by storm, ZeptoLab has finally gotten around to releasing a proper sequel to Cut the Rope. Expectedly, it’s the most notable shift in design and mechanics seen in any of the later entries, due to one major alteration: Instead of adorable green creature Om Nom waiting patiently to receive the candy you’ll typically maneuver his way through various physics-centric puzzles, he can now be shifted and manipulated around the screen to solve the myriad conundrums you’ll encounter in the 100+ stages. That’s not exactly a subtle tweak to the formula, but what’s surprising is how little it seems to alter the tried-and-true sensation of playing the series’ single-screen puzzles.
It's rare that you find a complex puzzle game as ominous and creepy as The Room, which is why the new layers of intricate depth and unsettling atmosphere worked into its spooky sequel make it a welcome foray back into the dark. The Room Two scales back the challenge of its predecessor ever so slightly while broadening its range of puzzles to keep things fresh. And yes, if you play it alone in a dark room with headphones on, you will undoubtedly get a few scares along the way.
With a subtitle like “The Next Generation Slicing Game,” KingHunt invites comparison to other titles in this done-to-death genre. Most slicing games — the definitive example being Halfbrick’s Fruit Ninja — are ostensibly endless: you’re free to keep playing as long as possible without failing. KingHunt’s hook is that it features all of the trappings of more traditional action games, like power-ups, life bars, distinct levels, and enemy bosses — but it lacks the timing and restraint to keep from feeling mindlessly chaotic.
The Shivah opens with a question, simultaneously straightforward and cosmic: “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Lead writer and designer Dave Gilbert attempts to answer it with fuzzy pixel art, a jazz soundtrack, and the restrained and cynical story of Rabbi Russell Stone, who takes it upon himself to investigate the murder of a Jewish businessman. Gilbert is well versed in noir-tinged mysteries, but The Shivah is understated and realistically grounded when compared to Wadjet Eye’s science fiction games (like the great Gemini Rue). The Shivah dispenses with many of the adventure genre’s more cumbersome traditions, too, leaving room for investigation to drive the plot forward instead of awkward, arbitrary puzzles.
There’s a strong sense of déjà vu that comes from playing Oceanhorn. This mobile adventure stars a brave boy that sails to different islands, overcomes puzzling dungeons, and gains the tools necessary to combat evil and essentially save his kingdom. Despite not featuring princesses or golden triangles, there’s no denying that the game draws heavily from Nintendo’s iconic The Legend of Zelda series, particularly Wind Waker. However, instead of merely giving us a facsimile and porting it to iOS, Oceanhorn handpicks what it borrows and creates an experience well worth playing.
Morphopolis may be one of the most beautiful games we’ve seen this year, but its remarkable looks aren’t always backed up by strong puzzle design. Taking on the role of a caterpillar as it undergoes five metamorphoses into ever larger insects, you’ll find hidden objects and solve puzzling minigames across more than a dozen scenes — each as lusciously detailed as the last — all backed by a stellar soundtrack amidst a bare-bones interface.
In some games, story is the spice; in others, it’s the whole meal. Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! fell into the latter category, as a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style series of choices unwrapped into seemingly endless possibilities. Sorcery! 2 is largely a continuation rather than a fresh iteration on the concept, since it’s meant to pick up right where the last one left off — though new players can start fresh here if they see fit. And while it’s a little less novel this time around, the game still packs the unique flavor that made the first such a unique treat.
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.
One of the true rewards of playing a monster-training game is the ability to create your own cool-looking creature and customize it to your liking. Monster Adventures not only lets you decide what such a beast looks like, but its mash-up of role-playing and roguelike genre elements makes each play session an exciting and slightly addictive foray into its vibrant world. Monster Adventures starts you off with a basic creature, and it’s your job to train it and enter it into tournaments to bring pride to your village.