This week, we take a look at a helicopter arcade game, a tower defense offering, a path management puzzler, and a tilt-based arcade challenge.
Gyro13 -- Steam Copter Arcade HD
Gyro13 – Steam Copter Arcade HD from CINEMAX is a physics-based helicopter arcade game built using the Unreal Engine. The goal of each of the 2 dozen levels is to fly your steam copter through tight cavernous spaces to rescue a number of trapped miners within a strict time limit. Levels feature multiple pads upon which to land and collect miners, with the pads doubling as instant repair stations. This is a necessity, as even minor bumps along the way can have devastating effects on your craft. Additionally, the miners move ridiculously slowly despite the imminent threat, costing you precious seconds. Checkpoints are a savings grace, though returning to them seems to cost an additional time penalty for each attempt. The time limits might not seem as unforgiving were the controls easier to use or were the copter a bit more rugged.
Controlling the ship sounds easy in theory, but is a major chore in practice. A thrust button on the left side of the screen controls up and down movements, while a slider on the right tips your copter to the left or right. There are a ton of minor adjustments needed to get the copter through the tight spaces, and the addition of fires and explosives doesn’t help either. These are extinguished/detonated by hovering close to the obstacle and touching the screen to send a pulse wave out of your ship’s front side. The visuals also make it difficult to maneuver cleanly, as it’s not really evident which items are in the foreground or background, nor whether an item will cause damage if passed through. You can’t zoom out and you don’t have access to a map, so figuring out where to go is a difficult task, too. The soundtrack is fairly decent, but nothing that stands out in any way. The game quickly devolves into an exercise in frustration and futility, and the learning curve to get used to all of the quirks simply won’t be worth the effort for many gamers. It simply wasn’t as enjoyable as we’d hoped it would be. The lack of social gaming network integration also limits its replay value, leading us to assign this $0.99 (regularly $5.99) universal app a disappointing 3-Dimple score.
Tiny Defense from Picsoft Studio is a tower defense game that plays a lot like Plants vs. Zombies. Using a side-scrolling format, enemies stream in from the left and attempt to break through your defenses on the screen’s right side. Your most basic tower is a Fuser bot that creates energy by spewing green crystals, which are used to purchase additional defensive towers. A unique aspect of the game is the multi-tiered levels that allow you to place some towers above others. Not all enemies are ground-based, as helicopters and other airborne baddies can easily skirt your ground-based Gunner Bots. It’s imperative that you build a balanced defense that is capable of handling both types of units, or you’ll be sorry. After successfully defending a level, you earn stars and a new item, which could be a new tower or a power-up of sorts. These power-ups include starting a level with additional gems, increasing the number of enemies that can pass before you fail, and the like. New and stronger enemy units also enter the fray as you progress. Additionally, defeated enemies will sometimes drop a bolt or other metallic item, which can be picked up and used as an alternative currency to purchase upgrades. While we felt that the game seemed slow at first, the difficult ramps up fairly quickly, requiring strategic placement of towers to properly rebuff the oncoming machines.
There are 3 episodes containing 50 levels spread evenly across 5 areas (Green Fields, Waste Sands, South Ocean, Glacier Land, and Iron Fortress), so there is a wealth of gameplay to enjoy. The cartoon graphics are fairly run-of-the-mill, and the animations are somewhat lacking as each units seems to have two states consisting of static imagery that’s just not very engaging. The backdrops have a simplistic feel, too, eliciting thoughts of old Mario levels with robot overlays. It just didn’t do a lot for us. Similarly, the soundtrack isn’t very exciting, but it gets the job done. Controls are touch-based, using taps to collect crystals and bolts, as well as select and place units. We had no issues with the controls. An unlockable Robopedia explains the various types of units you’ll encounter (40 robots and 32 machines), and multiple profiles ensure that others can play on your device without impacting your progress. Replay value is good, though the levels feel fairly short. GameCenter integration brings 40 achievements into play for an additional challenge. At $0.99, Tiny Defense is a decent 3.5-Dimple offering.
Tiny Invaders is a quirky path management puzzle game from Hogrocket. Your goal is to spread space germs in humans as quickly as possible across 60 challenging levels. There are 15 levels in each of 4 host bodies: a hick, a waitress, a kid, and the President. Each level contains a contorted pathway with various junctions that can be switched at the tap of a finger. Tapping on the tentacled alien will release a small number of invaders who travel along the pathway that contains a handful of orbs. Each invader can collect a single orb which is dropped off with the alien as it passes through again. Gold orbs will increase the number of travelling invaders by one. Tapping on the invaders will give them a short-lived speed burst. Finding the balance between tapping to change junctions and tapping to increase invader speed should allow you to best the target times to earn more than the single star obtained for simply completing the level, which is a given since there is no way to die or fail. The 3-star time is quite challenging to attain, though the 2-star time is a bit more generous and shouldn’t be too much trouble.
After completing the first set of puzzles, the game tosses in some white blood cells that travel along the same paths as your invaders, destroying the foreign bodies if they ever come into contact. Fortunately, the white blood cells follow the same mechanics as the invaders, speeding up with taps and following the direction of the junctions. Controlling both parties effectively really ups the challenge and puts your problem-solving abilities to the test. Latter level sets include additional elements that can really get your fingers tied in knots. The visuals have a cool hand-drawn look and the background color changes from red (healthy) to green (infected) as you collect more and more orbs, which is a cool detail. The junction pathways are easy to follow and the animations are smooth. The soundtrack is quirky and cheery, while the in-game music is more atmospheric. An audible warning also blares moments before reaching a star time plateau, indicating the need to speed up or alerting you to the fact that you can no longer earn the full complement of stars during your current attempt. Controls are simple and responsive, though you’ll occasionally switch a junction when trying to speed up the invaders and vice-versa. Replay value is decent, as shaving seconds off of your level times will help you move up the GameCenter leaderboard. There are a bunch of achievements to earn, too. At $1.99, Tiny Invaders is a solid 4-Dimple challenge with a good deal of charm.
FlipShip from ByteSize Games is a tilt-based arcade game akin to Tilt To Live. Piloting a tiny ship amidst a field of materializing enemies, your goal is to shoot the baddies that match your color while avoiding the others. Much like Tilt To Live, a number of power-ups materialize in the playing field, too, causing nuclear blasts, forming electrical storms, firing homing missiles, engaging slo-mo, equipping a shield, or allowing a hyperspeed burst to destroy or avoid nearby threats. Unlike its competition, the ship in FlipShip is also equipped with its own weapon, automatically firing on like-colored craft when in range. The most notable characteristic of FlipShip is the ability to change your ship’s color at any time with a simple tap of the screen. Flipping your color will bank any points you’ve built up, while resetting your combo meter to zero. Any points you’ve not banked are lost when you contact a ship of a differing color. This leads to a constant struggle between trying to extend your combo by sticking with your current color and needing to flip to avoid being destroyed and losing your points.
Graphically, FlipShip employs a neon style that’s similar to Geometry Wars. The bright colors really pop against the darker background. We did encounter occasional confusion between spawning ships and materializing power-ups, as their colors are sometimes similar. We also found ourselves getting confused about which color to attack and which to avoid after flipping a few times in quick succession, but that was more of a personal failing than a shortcoming of the game. The audio is upbeat techno and fitting for the game style. The controls were pretty tight, almost as good as Tilt To Live. You can calibrate the controls in the Options menu before you play to ensure the best experience. The only other controllable aspect is the power meter, initiated by tapping an icon in the lower right corner once it becomes active. This will launch your ship’s special ability, which differs between the 3 available ships. In addition to the special ability, ships differ in ratings of speed and weapon range. Replay value is great, with a strong “one more try” vibe, multiple difficulty levels, and GameCenter integration for a global leaderboard and a huge amount of achievements to earn, most of which will take a long, long time to earn. Currently on sale for $0.99 (regularly $1.99), FlipShip is a terrific 4.5-Dimple offering.
As always, let us hear what you think in the Comments section below.