Though it draws heavy inspiration from a particular sci-fi franchise well known for boldly sending a spaceship full of uniformed crew where no one has gone before, Star Command doesn't fiddle around with any namby-pamby prime directive. The galaxy is full of danger and backstabbing aliens looking to get a piece of your sweet tech. Sure, diplomacy is sometimes an option with the strange crafts you encounter in this slick pixel-based quest, but it's just way more fun to blow your adversaries out of the stars or die trying in an often intense and chaotic adventure through the cosmos.
It's that time again, where we at Free App Friday headquarters take a closer look at some of the more basic apps out there that are worth your time. Not unlike a fine IPA, just because they're smaller servings, doesn't mean they lack a punch.
Storm Raiders is the best entry yet in the Sky Gamblers aerial-combat franchise, sending you soaring through two separate World War II campaigns—the Battle of Britain and Asia-Pacific War—packed with diverse missions, intense action, and impressive visuals. Even more notable are the eight-player dogfights, which span a large number of play modes (like team deathmatch and capture the flag) and deliver ample competition whenever you want it. The Mac version doesn’t control quite as comfortably as the iOS version, but it’s still plenty enjoyable.
Getting from one place to the next is trickier than it seems in Hairy Tales, a colorful Mac puzzler that finds you moving and turning various tiles to send the hero safely toward a goal. Initially, this means little more than evading hazards and creating a safe path forward, but as the 70-plus stages progress, you’ll encounter new obstacles, like enemies and fixed arrow tiles. It’s solidly smart and only occasionally frustrating, though the samey puzzles turn a bit monotonous before too long.
Draw Something 2 is exactly the kind of sequel we'd expect from a casual gaming juggernaut like Zynga: It's slickly refined, nicely expanded, and slathered with silly marketing tie-ins. Seriously, when will pop starlet Carly Rae Jepsen continue the game that it made us send "her" during the tutorial? All the same, this follow-up builds upon the sketch-guessing sensation by adding more social features and ways to interact, while wrapping everything up in a flashier package.
The gang's all here for LEGO Batman: DC Super Heroes, a decidedly goofy clash between iconic comic-book superheroes and villains modeled with digital plastic bricks. While Batman and Robin are the centerpieces of this silly iPhone and iPad romp through a LEGO-fied Gotham City, they're joined by more than 80 unlockable characters that add tremendous variety to your quest to stamp out evil. The silly antics and block-smashing fun found throughout this original adventure will feel familiar if you've played any of the other recent licensed LEGO games, but it's an amusing time nonetheless.
After utilizing an open-city design for its premium Iron Man 2 movie game – complete with the requisite array of screen-cluttering virtual buttons – Gameloft opted for something simpler, swifter, and certainly cheaper for the next tie-in. Released in advance of the latest live-action Marvel Comics romp, the free-to-play Iron Man 3 sends Tony Stark soaring ahead through multiple locales, with alternating sequences that find him swiftly dodging traffic and aerial obstacles, zapping waves of foes, and even fighting through narrative-led boss battles. Blazingly fast and initially quite fun, this gratis game easily warrants a download from fans, though the thrills are short-lived.
It's fair to say that the original Robot Unicorn Attack was built on a gag concept. Its hard-edged riff on the hearts-and-rainbows style of artist Lisa Frank offered an amusing visual contrast, while the looping synth-pop classic "Always" by Erasure only cemented its absurdist intentions. But the game itself was no joke, as the rousing endless runner became a genre favorite that even spawned a couple of spin-offs. Robot Unicorn Attack 2 is an all-new entry, though, and while maintaining the fundamental elements of the debut, it makes the previous titles seem downright prehistoric by comparison. And it also offers one of the friendliest free-to-play models we've seen in any iOS game to date.
Shoehorning an expansive online space combat sim experience onto the iPad isn't without its challenges, but the tablet version of Vendetta Online delivers a faithful and surprisingly functional port of the long-running massively multiplayer online game. For players used to the more casual thrills offered on the App Store, Vendetta Online's exhaustive depth and complexity poses a steep learning curve to master upfront, though carving out your niche in the galaxy is undeniably absorbing once you open up the throttle.
In a marketplace chock full of free-to-play word games, Bookworm Heroes plays like a clear attempt to take back the mantle. PopCap didn’t invent casual word puzzles, but its Bookworm franchise certainly had a hand in its popularity. This asynchronous multiplayer entry boasts spritely animations and well-balanced word fighting mechanics, and serves as a nicely modernized successor to the franchise's name.