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Quick Reviews from the Request Desk – 4.12.11
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Our latest installment of Quick Reviews brings some retro LCD love, a 3D puzzler, and a plunge into the ocean depths. The best part: each is only a buck. Enjoy!

Monkey Labour

Monkey Labour from Dawn of Play is a throwback to our youthful days when iPods were but a twinkle in Steve Jobs’ eyes and LCDs ruled the day. These were games with simple mechanics and an even simpler premise. The two-button configuration was utilized well in pinball games, as each would control one flipper. Our baseball game utilized the two buttons for swinging a bat and running the bases. In Monkey Labour, the two buttons send the monkey robot (or Mobot) to either side of the black and tan screen, moving logs from a pile on the right to a furnace on the left. The challenge is in avoiding logs thrown from your monkey boss above. Take three hits and you’re done. Your only method to fight back is to stoke the fire so that steam pours out of one of the seams in the pipe over the head of your boss. Time it correctly and you’ll scorch the taskmaster and run up a multiplier as you shoot for a high score. You can also use a log held overhead to block incoming logs. The graphics are delightfully rendered, offering an experience so authentic that tilting the screen allows you to see the ghostly images of all possible positions of objects that appear on-screen. There is no soundtrack, which is also in keeping with the original style, but plenty of beeping sound effects to complement the visuals. A concession seems to have been made to allow music from your iPod collection, though we feel that this isn’t in keeping with the spirit of these games. Controls are dead simple to comprehend and work as advertised. GameCenter integration tracks your scores on 3 global leaderboard and there are 18 achievements to earn, too. A universal app priced at $0.99, Monkey Labour is a 4.5-Dimple classic re-mastered for a new generation of gamers.

Pixross

Pixross from entropia is a 3D version of one of our favorite types of pen-and-paper puzzles, Nonograms. A traditional nonogram is comprised of a grid, with numbers at the head of each row and column indicating which of the graph’s squares to black out. The completed puzzle typically creates a pixilated representation of an object. It requires logic and good spatial skills, as does Pixross. Each Pixross puzzle presents you with a cube, either 5x5x5 or 6x6x6. The outward-facing sides contain a number representing how many cubes should be present in the column/row. Tapping each individual square highlights it, and double-tapping removes them. You can rotate the image in any direction by swiping outside of the cube. If a header is a 0, then you can safely remove all squares from its row/column. Any number by itself indicates the number of contiguous squares that should be there. If a header has a line under it, it means that there is a gap of one or more squares in between the squares in the row/column. A double underline indicates that there should be two gaps. You can incorrectly attempt to remove up to 3 squares before you fail the puzzle. When you successfully solve it, the resulting image is colored in and its name is revealed. Some of the objects, like the checkered flag, really do look like the intended object. Others left us spinning the object in a vain attempt to identify visually the finished object with no luck. The presentation isn’t great, as the ultra-white cubes tended to blend into each other, making it difficult to differentiate squares that are further away and irritating our eyes. Tapping the proper squares isn’t always as easy as we hoped, as we often unhighlighted squares unintentionally. Switching between spinning the shape and selecting squares was also awkward and required re-taps and repeated efforts to make it do what we intended. There are 100 puzzles out of the gate, with additional puzzles and GameCenter integration expected in future updates. In its current state, it lacks some refinement and polish. The gameplay can be confusing and frustrating for newer players, as well as seasoned players. At $0.99, Pixross is a 3-Dimple puzzler with plenty of potential.

Squid Drop

Squid Drop from Nor Eagle is a simple game where you try to direct an inky black squid as deep into the ocean as possible. You will need to work your way through layers of black platforms, maze-like structures, monsters, and various obstacles meant to get in your way. The hit detection is forgiving insofar as the bulk of your body hitting an obstacle won’t kill you. Once your tentacles hit anything, however, the game ends and your depth becomes your “low” score. Local and global scores are maintained through in-game leaderboards. There are also a half-dozen in-game achievements to earn. The graphics are simplistic, utilizing a theme of single colors against black platforms/enemies. To control the squid, simply drag your finger left and right on-screen. We found the controls to be generally smooth, although there was a bit of jerkiness when you initially slide your finger after repositioning. You don’t need to touch the squid to move him, so you can comfortable hold your thumb at the screen bottom and slide back and forth without obscuring your view. Squid Drop is a 3.5-Dimple offering that’s available now for $0.99.

As always, let us know what you think in the comments section.





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